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PHR and Human Rights Groups Call for Immediate Action in Libya

For Immediate Release

Physicians for Human Rights urged world powers to convene the U.N. SecurityCouncil and the Human Rights Council to protect Libyan civilians fromgovernment killings. PHR issued the call in a letter sent to the U.S., the E.U.and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon along with an international coalitionof 24 rights groups.

Theletter, which was prepared under the guidanceof Mohamed Eljahmi, the noted Libyan human rights defender and brother ofdissident Fathi Eljahmi, assertsthat the widespread atrocities committed by Libya against its own people amountto war crimes, requiring member states to take action through the SecurityCouncil under the responsibility to protect doctrine. PHR had previouslyvisited Fathi Eljahmi to evaluate his failing health and advocate for hisfreedom.

The letter, which is included below, calls for immediate internationalaction "to halt the mass atrocities now being perpetrated by the Libyangovernment against its own people."

UrgentAppeal to Stop Atrocities in Libya

Sentby 23 NGOs to US President Obama, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton,
and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 20 February 2011 

We,the undersigned non-governmental, human rights, and humanitarian organizations,urge you to mobilize the United Nations and the international community andtake immediate action to halt the mass atrocities now being perpetrated by theLibyan government against its own people. The inexcusable silence cannotcontinue.

Asyou know, in the past several days, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi’s forces areestimated to have deliberately killed hundreds of peaceful protesters andinnocent bystanders across the country. In the city of Benghazi alone, onedoctor reported seeing at least 200 dead bodies. Witnesses report that amixture of special commandos, foreign mercenaries and regime loyalists haveattacked demonstrators with knives, assault rifles and heavy-caliber weapons.

Snipersare shooting peaceful protesters. Artillery and helicopter gunships have beenused against crowds of demonstrators. Thugs armed with hammers and swordsattacked families in their homes. Hospital officials report numerous victimsshot in the head and chest, and one struck on the head by an anti-aircraftmissile. Tanks are reported to be on the streets and crushing innocentbystanders. Witnesses report that mercenaries are shooting indiscriminatelyfrom helicopters and from the top of roofs. Women and children were seenjumping off Giuliana Bridge in Benghazi to escape. Many of them were killed bythe impact of hitting the water, while others were drowned. The Libyan regimeis seeking to hide all of these crimes by shutting off contact with the outsideworld. Foreign journalists have been refused entry. Internet and phone lineshave been cut or disrupted.

Thereis no question here about intent. The government media has published openthreats, promising that demonstrators would meet a “violent and thunderousresponse.”

Accordingly,the government of Libya is committing gross and systematic violations of theright to life as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights andthe International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Citizens seeking toexercise their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly arebeing massacred by the government.

Moreover,the government of Libya is committing crimes against humanity, as defined bythe Explanatory Memorandum to the Rome Statute of the International CriminalCourt. The Libyan government’s mass killing of innocent civilians amount toparticularly odious offences which constitute a serious attack on humandignity. As confirmed by numerous oral and video testimonies gathered by humanrights organizations and news agencies, the Libyan government’s assault on itscivilian population are not isolated or sporadic events. Rather, these actionsconstitute a widespread and systematic policy and practice of atrocities,intentionally committed, including murder, political persecution and otherinhumane acts which reach the threshold of crimes against humanity.

Underthe 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, you have a clear and unambiguousresponsibility to protect the people of Libya. The international community,through the United Nations, has the responsibility to use appropriatediplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with ChaptersVI and VIII of the Charter, to help to protect the Libyan population. Becausethe Libyan national authorities are manifestly failing to protect theirpopulation from crimes against humanity, should peaceful means be inadequate,member states are obliged to take collective action, in a timely and decisivemanner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the UN Charter,including Chapter VII.

Inaddition, we urge you to convene an emergency Special Session of the UN HumanRights Council, whose members have a duty, under UNGA Resolution 60/251, toaddress situations of gross and systematic violations of violations of humanrights. The session should:

  • Suspend Libya’s Council membership, pursuant to Article 8 of Resolution 60/251, which applies to member states that commit gross and systematic violations of human rights.
  • Strongly condemn, and demand an immediate end to, Libya’s massacre of its own citizens.
  • Dispatch immediately an international mission of independent experts to collect relevant facts and document violations of international human rights law and crimes against humanity, in order to end the impunity of the Libyan government. The mission should include an independent medical investigation into the deaths, and an investigation of the unlawful interference by the Libyan government with the access to and treatment of wounded.
  • Call on the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights and the Council’s relevant Special Procedures to closely monitor the situation and take action as needed.
  • Call on the Council to remain seized of the matter and address the Libyan situation at its upcoming 16th regular session in March.

Memberstates and high officials of the United Nations have a responsibility toprotect the people of Libya from what are preventable crimes. We urge you touse all available measures and levers to end atrocities throughout the country.

Weurge you to send a clear message that, collectively, the internationalcommunity, the Security Council and the Human Rights Council will not bebystanders to these mass atrocities. The credibility of the United Nations —and many innocent lives — are at stake.


1.Hillel C. Neuer, United Nations Watch, Switzerland
2. Dr. Sliman Bouchuiguir, Libyan League for Human Rights, Switzerland
3. Bhawani Shanker Kusum, Gram Bharati Samiti, India
4. Carl Gershman, President, The National Endowment for Democracy, USA
5. G. Jasper Cummeh, III, Actions for Genuine Democratic Alternatives, Liberia
6. A. Frank Donaghue, Physicians for Human Rights, USA
7. Michel Monod, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Switzerland
8. Esohe Aghatise, Associazione Iroko Onlus, Italy
9. Harris O. Schoenberg, UN Reform Advocates, USA
10. Myrna Lachenal, World Federation for Mental Health, Switzerland
11. Nguyên Lê Nhân Quyên, Vietnamese League for Human Rights, Switzerland
12. Sylvia G. Iriondo, Mothers and Women against Repression (M.A.R. Por Cuba),USA
13. David Littman, World Union for Progressive Judaism, Switzerland
14. Barrister Festus Okoye, Executive Director, Human Rights Monitor, Nigeria
15. Theodor Rathgeber, Forum Human Rights, Germany
16. Derik Uya Alfred, Kwoto Cultural Center, Juba – Southern Sudan
17. Carlos E Tinoco, Consorcio Desarrollo y Justicia, A.C., Venezuela
18. Abdurashid Abdulle Abikar, Center for Youth and Democracy, Somalia
19. Dr. Vanee Meisinger, Pan Pacific and South East Asia Women’s Association,Thailand
20. Simone Abel, René Cassin, United Kingdom
21. Dr. Francois Ullmann, Ingenieurs du Monde, Switzerland
22. Sr Catherine Waters, Catholic International Education Office, USA
23. Gibreil Hamid, Darfur Peace and Development Centre, Switzerland
24. Nino Sergi, INTERSOS – Humanitarian Aid Organization, Italy

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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