Libyan rebels confirm death of President Muammar Gaddafi

The Libyan National Transition Council (NTC) has confirmed the death of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi.

The NTC told several news sources, including Reuters and Al Jazeera, that Gaddafi had died of  wounds sustained during his capture near his hometown of Sirte, which has been besieged by the rebels for several months, and his body taken to a secure location.

Pictures that appeared to be of the bloodied body of the former dictator were initially published on Al Jazeera. His death was subsequently confirmed by the leaders of several countries, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

NTC official Abdel Majid Mlegta told news agency Reuters that the NATO warplanes had attacked the convoy in which Gaddafi was attempting to flee.

An NTC fighter in Sirte meanwhile told Reuters that he had seen Gaddafi shot after he was cornered and captured in a tunnel near a roadway.

“He (Gaddafi) was also hit in his head,” Mlegta  told Reuters. “There was a lot of firing against his group and he died.”

Gaddafi’s spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim was captured by the NTC near Sirte, while the chief of Gaddafi’s armed forces, Abu Bakr Younus Jabr, was reported killed in the fighting.

Following the announcement of Gaddafi’s death by the NTC, celebrations broke out in the capital city of Tripoli and the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

Colonel Gaddafi was only 27 when he took control of Libya after a military coup in 1969. His 42 years of power brought wealth to Libya, but his reign was also characterised by erratic policies and terrifying punishments, based on a political platform of socialism and Arab nationalism condensed in his ‘Little Green Book’.

Minivan News obtained a copy of Gaddafi’s ‘Little Green Book’, entitled “The Solution of the Problem of Democracy”, copies of which were reportedly gifted to a generation of Maldivian school students under former Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

At the time of his death, Gadaffi was wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for a systematic campaign of violence to try and put down a popular uprising, which led to Western military intervention.

Diplomatically, the Maldives was meanwhile among the first countries to formally recognise the NTC rebels as the sovereign representatives of the Libyan people, and helped organise several UN Human Rights Council resolutions that increased pressure on Gaddafi and legitimised Western military intervention.

“The Maldives took these steps because of our conviction that men such as Muammar Gadaffi should not be allowed to check, through violence, the recent march of democracy and human rights across the Muslim world – the Muslim Awakening,” said Maldives Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem in August.

“For decades, the government of Muammar Gadaffi has ruled through a system of patronage, repression and fear. The Muslim Awakening brought hope that this system could be dismantled peacefully, through dialogue, reform and free and fair elections. However, instead Muammar Gadaffi chose to use his security forces to attack and kill civilians.

“With the imminent fall of Gadaffi, the Muslim Awakening lives on, and the Maldives looks forward to welcoming a new, democratic Libyan State into the international family of nations,” Naseem said.


President sends letter to Libyan rebels, calling for modern Muslim democracy

President Mohamed Nasheed has pledged the Maldives’ support to the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) in a letter yesterday, recognising the rebel group as the “sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people.”

The letter, which was sent to NTC chief Mustafa Abdul Jalil, expressed the President’s hope that Libya would “emerge as a free and democratic country, in which fundamental human rights can be enjoyed by all.”

In recent days, Libya’s six-month long revolution against dictator Muammar Gaddafi came to a close when NTC rebels seized Tripoli. Currently, Qaddafi’s whereabouts are unknown and over thirty foreign powers have recognised the NTC as Libya’s legitimate representative group.

President Nasheed noted in his letter to NTC chief Jalil that the Maldives was among the first three countries to recognize the NTC. Iraq, Morocco, the US and European Union member countries have also recognised the group, while Russia and China do not recognise the NTC as Libya’s only legitimate representative but are still engaging in talks with NTC leaders.

Ethiopia and Nigeria have called on African Union member states to recognise the NTC, and Hamas had declared its support of the rebel group.

The President’s Press Secretary, Mohamed Zuhair, said today that “The Maldives is in favor of democracy, and feels any government should recognise the voices of its people. We are continuing our support of the Libyan rebels, and asking other countries to do the same.”

Zuhair said the Maldives was one of the first Islamic countries to experience a democratic revolution. In 2005, the Maldivian people began the uprising that ousted former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom in 2008.

“The same thing that is happening all over the Arab world has already happened here,” Zuhair said. “We are ahead of them, and we can share our experience.”

The Maldives, which has been a Muslim state for over 900 years, has one of the longest traditions of shariah law in the Arab world, said Zuhair. He said the Maldives encourages the Libyan NTC to apply democratic norms and values, and to use many small elections as they build a modern Muslim democracy.

“The Maldives would like to see Libya become a modern Islamic democratic state that is fully functional,” said Zuhair.

Colonel Gaddafi was only 27 when he took control of Libya after a military coup in 1969. His 42 years of power brought wealth to Libya, but his reign was also characterised by erratic policies and terrifying punishments. When the revolution began in February of this year, Gaddafi reportedly said, “Muammar is the leader of the revolution until the end of time.”

Earlier this week, the NTC reportedly placed a US$2 million bounty on Gaddafi’s head.


Maldives hails “new dawn” in Libya, increases international pressure on Syria

Maldives Foreign Minister Ahmed Naseem has welcomed “a new dawn in Libya” following reports yesterday that the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) had all but taken control of Libya’s capital, Tripoli.

President Muammar Gaddafi remains nowhere to be found, but early reports yesterday – confirmed by the International Criminal Court (ICC) – suggested that the rebels had detained his son, Saif al-Islam.

Saif however appeared in front of journalists later in the day declaring that the rebels had “fallen into a trap”, and “screw the criminal court.”

The Maldives was among the first countries to formally recognise the TNC rebels as the sovereign representatives of the Libyan people, and helped organise several UN Human Rights Council resolutions increasing pressure on Gaddafi and legitimising Western military intervention.

“The Maldives took these steps because of our conviction that men such as Muammar Ghadaffi should not be allowed to check, through violence, the recent march of democracy and human rights across the Muslim world – the Muslim Awakening,” Naseem said.

“For decades, the government of Muammar Ghadaffi has ruled through a system of patronage, repression and fear. The Muslim Awakening brought hope that this system could be dismantled peacefully, through dialogue, reform and free and fair elections. However, instead Muammar Ghadaffi chose to use his security forces to attack and kill civilians.

“With the imminent fall of Ghadaffi, the Muslim Awakening lives on, and the Maldives looks forward to welcoming a new, democratic Libyan State into the international family of nations,” Naseem said.


The Maldives is taking a similar line on Syria it took with Libya earlier this year, insisting on democratic reforms and yesterday spearheading an emergency session of the UN Human Rights Council.

“The Maldives considers itself a friend of Syria and its people, and has watched with increasing alarm as the government there has responded to peaceful protests calling for democratic reform with violence and intimidation. Thousands have been arbitrarily detained and hundred of our Muslim brothers and sisters, including children, have been killed. Worse, these gross human rights violations have intensified during the Holy Month of Ramadan,” Naseem said, in another statement.

Syria, which has failed to respond to the Council or cooperate with the UN, is backed by Iran and has taken a hard line against civilian demonstrators calling for President Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Protests began in January 26 as the ‘Arab Spring’ demonstrations began to sweep through the Middle East, escalating into an uprising in which over 2200 people have reportedly been killed.

Involvement of the Maldives

At a press conference held yesterday in Male’, the Maldives Ambassador to the UN Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed said that the small size and relative isolation of the Maldives was “no impediment” the country’s pursuit of an international human rights agenda.

“I think we have shown that size is not everything in international relations,” Ghafoor said. “Even if you are a small country your commitments, your principles, and how you work with others can help you achieve many of your goals.

“Our relations with other countries and our record of promoting human rights both at home and in concert with other countries, and our cooperation with the Human Rights High Commissioner has given us respect and legitimacy in the international community, and we have been at the forefront of a number of resolutions that has been initiated on matters of grave concern,” he said.

Asked about the Maldives’ commitment to human rights locally, and whether he concurred with the Maldives’ recent delegation to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives was the “most active national institution in Asia”, Ghafoor observed that “I don’t think there’s any country that has a perfect human rights record.”

“Without exception I think all countries have human rights issues and problems, but what is more important is how do we deal with it and how do we address these issues,” he said.

“I think Maldives has shown that it is willing to address the shortcomings it has in its human rights promotion and making every effort possible within the resources we have to improve our human rights record.

We are willing to work with other countries, with the international human rights organisations, even with NGOs to make the human rights issue a non-issue hopefully some time in the future. But that maybe a bit too much to hope for. So long as there are human beings interacting with each other there’s likely to be human rights issues.”

Speaking as to the Maldives’ position on the UN report detailing war crimes in the closing days of Sri Lanka’s civil war, Ghafoor said he did not think the matter would create friction with the Maldives’ neighbour.

“I do not see the government having any issues at this stage with the Sri Lankan government,” he said.

“[Naseem] has stated that we would like to see the UN take a more comprehensive review of what has happened in Sri Lanka, rather than concentrate on the last few days. This could skew the whole issue. So we do not see our memberships of the Human Rights Council making it difficult for us to have good relations with Sri Lanka or speak on issues of sensitivity. I think as good friends Maldives can speak very frankly with Sri Lanka and I’m sure they would happy to listen to our views.”


Libyan rebels push into Tripoli, arrest Gaddafi’s son

Libyan rebels have reportedly arrested the son of President Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam, after last night pushing into the capital Tripoli.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) yesterday told AFP that al-Islam, who is wanted on charges of crimes against humanity, was in custody.

Rebels with the Transitional National Council (TNC), now recognised by many nations including the Maldives as Libya’s legitimate governing entity, last night reached Tripoli’s central Green Square following reports that Gaddafi’s Presidential Guard had surrendered.

“Tripoli is slipping from the grasp of a tyrant,” said US President Barack Obama in a statement, following the rebel’s push into Tripoli. “The Gaddafi regime is showing signs of collapsing. The people of Libya are showing that the universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator.

“The surest way for the bloodshed to end is simple: Muammar Gaddafi and his regime need to recognise that their rule has come to an end. Gaddafi needs to acknowledge the reality that he no longer controls Libya. He needs to relinquish power once and for all,” Obama said.

Gaddafi, who earlier had vowed to fight “to the last drop of blood”, issued a statement on state television calling on the population to descend on the city and defend it from the rebels.

“They are coming to destroy Tripoli. They are coming to steal our oil. Now Tripoli is in ruins. Come out of your houses and fight these betrayers. Hurry up, hurry up, families and tribes, go to Tripoli,” Gaddafi said.

Libya’s information ministry continued to insist that the regime had “thousands and thousands of fighters”.

“Nato has intensified its attacks on and around Tripoli, giving immediate and direct support for the rebels’ forces to advance into a peaceful capital of this great nation and the death toll is beyond imagination,” a Gaddafi’s spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim said, warning of impending “massacres”.

“I thought I knew the West. But in this conflict I saw a different West. The West of blood and disaster and killing and occupation.”

An uprising of rebel groups in the centre of Tripoli was joined by fighters arriving by sea, armed with weapons seized following the capture of a large military base on Sunday afternoon. Nato planes provided air cover for the advancing rebels.

Meanwhile in Tripoli, there were reports that four districts of the city remained under Gaddafi’s control. Media reporting on the push claimed that the dictator of 42 years had sent tanks into residential areas and fired on protesters, and there were rumours of roadside executions.

Early this morning, a rebel spokesman told Al-Jazeera that Gaddafi’s forces still controlled 15-20 percent of the city, and showed no sign of surrender.

Gaddafi’s fall is likely to increase pressure on the Syrian Iran-backed regime, which continues to target civilian demonstrators despite increasing discontent across the international community.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vowed that military action against Syria would “bring repercussions”, adding that demands for his to step down “should not be made about a president who was chosen by the Syrian people and who was not put in office by the West, a president who was not made in the United States.”

The Maldives is meanwhile leading a special session of the UN Human Rights Council, in conjunction with Germany, Kuwait and Mexico, to address the deteriorating human rights situation. Permanent Representative of the Maldives to the United Nations, Abdul Ghafoor Mohamed, is holding a press conference on the topic this afternoon.


Gaddafi’s son and grandchildren killed in NATO strike

The youngest son of Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi and three of the ruler’s grandchildren were killed last night in a NATO airstrike, Libyan authorities have claimed.

Libyan government spokesperson Moussa Ibrahim said Gaddafi and his wife, who were present in the building, were unharmed in the attack that claimed the life of Saif al-Arab Gaddafi.

“We think now it is clear to everyone that what is happening in Libya has nothing to do with the protection of civilians,” Ibrahim told international media.  “This is not permitted by international law. Nato does not care to test our promises, the west does not care to test our statements. Their only care is to rob us of our freedom.”

NATO and the defence ministries of countries involved in supporting Libyan regime change did not immediately comment on the attack. The UN resolution 1973 made in March does not explicitly permit or prohibit assassination of military leaders – Gaddafi is the de-facto head of the country’s armed forces – but it is mandated to use “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.

Fighting for key towns and oil ports continues as Gaddafi’s forces clash with NATO-backed rebels based in the eastern city of Benghazi. On Friday aid ships were blocked from docking at the port of Misrata – the scene of some of the civil war’s most vicious fighting – while coalition warships cleared mines laid by Gaddafi’s military.

Last month the Maldives suspended diplomatic ties with the Libyan government as Western powers increased military pressure on President Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

“Following the recognition of the TNC, the suspension of diplomatic relations with the pro-Gaddafi regime is based on the continuing deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in Libya, and increasingly clear evidence that the Gaddafi regime is guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes,” the Maldives Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The statement came after the US accused Gaddafi of using human shields and cluster bombs against his own population in Misrata.


“Clear evidence of crimes against humanity”: Maldives suspends diplomatic ties with Libya

The Maldives has suspended diplomatic ties with the Libyan government as Western powers increase military pressure on President Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

“Following the recognition of the TNC, the suspension of diplomatic relations with the pro-Gaddafi regime is based on the continuing deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation in Libya, and increasingly clear evidence that the Gaddafi regime is guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes,” the Maldives Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The statement came after the US accused Gaddafi of using human shields and cluster bombs against his own population in the city of Misata, in some of the fiercest fighting of the civil war so far.

At least 10 civilians were killed on Wednesday, along with British photojournalist Tim Hetherington and American photographer Chris Hondros.

A bombing attack on Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli yesterday meanwhile caused three causalities, after NATO jets targeted a bunker underneath a car park.

France, Italy and Britain this week authorised the deployment of military advisors to assist the ill-disciplined rebels in overthrowing Gaddafi’s government, despite earlier reluntance to put ‘boots on the ground’ in the stricken country.

US President Barack Obama has meanwhile authorised the use of drone aircraft in Libya. A NATO official this week told the UK’s Guardian newspaper that the drones would allow the identification of individuals even in crowded urban environments, allowing for more precise airstrikes.

After France and Qatar, the Maldives was the third country to recognise the Transitional National Council, the Benghazi rebels’ representative body.


Civilian shootings and talk of civil war as unrest grows in Syria, Libya and Yemen

Syrian authorities are reported to have opened fire on protesters gathered outside a mosque in the city of Deraa killing at least five people under a government crackdown on protests, as political struggles continue to rock a number of Middle Eastern and African nations.

News of the deaths reflects continued uncertainty in Syria, Yemen and Libya, where reports of dissatisfaction and uprisings by swathes of their respective populations has led to violent confrontations, which in certain cases have led to bombing interventions by foreign military.

The BBC today said that five people were believed to have died as Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters in the streets outside Deraa’s Omari mosque as anti-government protests that begun in the country on Friday have continued to rage, leading to at least 10 fatalities.

The British news service also reported that Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi used his first public address in a week to speak within a compound that appeared to have been destroyed during air strikes from a coalition of western nations, where he stated his continued defiance to rebels and foreign armed forces working to oppose him.

Following the UN Security Council’s resolution authorising military intervention in Libya, France, the UK and the US have attacked targets across the country in an effort to dismantle Gaddafi’s ability to contest a no fly zone, and prevent a retaliatory attack on targets like the rebel–occupied city of Benghazi.

According to the BBC, the Libyan leader called on “all Islamic armies” to join his opposition of rebels and foreign forces that have claimed to be attacking strategic points of Gaddafi’s governance and military power.

“Long live Islam everywhere. All Islamic armies must take part in the battle, all free [people] must take part in the battle… We will be victorious in the end,” he was quoted as saying by the BBC.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has claimed that the rescue by US troops of an American pilot and a weapons officer who crashed in Libya has led to some difficult questions for the foreign coalition in the country. The paper reported that American forces stood accused of dropping two 500-pound bombs during the rescue operation raising the possibility of civilian casualties.

The rescued soldiers remain aboard a US vessel in the waters surrounding the African nation, but the paper reported that the Pentagon did not know whether any civilians were killed by the bombs dropped in Yemen.  An unnamed Marine Corps officer in the Mediterranean denied that any shots had been fired at civilians during the incident, according to the paper.

Al Jazeera meanwhile reported that air strikes instigated by foreign powers from across Europe and America – provisionally under the basis to try and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya – have not appeared to halt Gaddafi’s attacks on rebel forces made up of fellow countrymen that oppose him.

“Undaunted by air strikes launched by coalition warplanes aimed at enforcing a no-fly zone, pro-Gaddafi forces have pressed ahead with their assaults on the towns of Misurata, Ajdabiya and Zintan in the past 24 hours,” the news agency has said.

In trying to oppose the Libyan leader’s military muscle, Al Jazeera claimed that rebel forces were outgunned and had “little command structure” to oppose state attacks.

Meanwhile, amidst the conflict in Libya, Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who also faces criticisms and calls to step down from his own people, has claimed that the country could potentially face civil war if he was forced from office.

Saleh, who also stands accused of using security forces to violently suppress protests among his people, is reported to have offered to stand down from his post at the end of the year under what he has said would be a “constitutional” transfer of power.

Al Jazeera reported though that the offer coincided with the president imposing a national state of emergency following violent “crackdowns” on anti-government protests with unconfirmed reports of 41 people having died in the capital of Sanaa alone due to the unrest.

According to the news agency, skepticism remains over Saleh’s reported offer after similar vows to stand down from the presidency back in 2005 did not come to pass. Saleh has been president since 1978.

The 22-member Arab League, which has previously called for a no-fly zone across Libya on the grounds that Gaddafi has been bombing his own people, has also moved to condemn Yemen’s leader for “crimes against civilians”, calling for a peaceful resolution to the country’s unrest.

The political unrest has continued following the fall in February of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Tunsian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, spreading to potential uprisings in other nations including Jordan and Algeria to Syria, Libya and Bahrain.

Mubarak, who was in power for 30 years, finally gave in after weeks of protests and stepped down from the presidency, handing power to an interim military government last month.

Swiss authorities announced following his resignation that they were freezing assets belonging to Mubarak and his family, pressuring the UK to do the same. Mubarak is thought to have a personal fortune of US$70 billion stashed across various bank accounts and property holdings all over the world.

That the people of one of the Middle East’s largest, oldest and most populated countries could not only overthrow but seek justice against a 30 year autocracy has sparked a wave of political dissent in the region.

The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported one senior western official of claiming at the time that “there has been an awakening of political awareness among the young who have been waiting for solutions that have never come and are not really in the menu now. They are saying: ‘Why should we carry on like this?’”


Moral complexities of Libyan intervention rising as Gaddafi prepares for “long war”

Forces loyal to Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi are in retreat from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi after two nights of sustained bombing by coalition forces.

Following the UN Security Council’s resolution authorising military intervention in Libya, France, the UK and the US have attacked targets across the country in an effort to dismantle Gaddafi’s abilility to contest a no fly zone, and prevent a retalitatory attack on Benghazi.

The first night after the collapse of a short-lived ceasefire, US vessels stationed off Libya fired 112 Tomahawk cruise missiles into the gulf nation destroying much of its ability to fight back against NATO aircraft.

French aircraft then destroyed a column of Gaddafi’s tanks converging just 40 miles from Benghazi, which had steadily pushed the rebels back across the country after their initial surge caught the regime off-guard.

“In their panic, many of the soldiers had left engines running in their tanks and trucks as they fled across fields,” reported Kim Sengupta for the Independent. “Some raided farmhouses on the way to swap their uniforms for civilian clothes. But others did not make it, their corpses burning with their vehicles or torn apart by spraying shrapnel as they ran to get away.”

The Guardian reported rebel claims that Gaddafi was now forcing demoralised soldiers to fight by handcuffing them to their tanks, and forcing them to fly planes without parachutes.

“We found 13 men wearing the military uniform of Gaddafi,” the Guardian reported rebel spokeperson Khaled al-Sayeh as saying.

“Some were handcuffed and we believe they were executed possibly for defying orders.”

The AFP has meanwhile reported that the US is now using satellitse to monitor 9.5 tonnes of mustard gas Gaddafi has stored in the Libyan desert, in an effort to prevent a potential terror attack.

“We believe that it’s secure,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel David Lapan told AFP. “Even if not weaponised, there’s still a threat, but it’s a smaller threat than if it is weaponised.”

Air strikes last night destroyed Gaddafi’s residence in Tripoli and a building the coalition claimed was Gaddafi’s command and control centre. Gaddafi has responded to the attacks by claiming on state television that he was prepared for a “long war”.

“We will not leave our land and we will liberate it,” he said, over the telephone.

“America, France, or Britain, the Christians that are in a pact against us today, they will not enjoy our oil,” he claimed. “We do not have to retreat from the battlefield because we are defending our land and our dignity.”

Despite the coalition’s vastly superior firepower, the moral complexity of the intervention is fast rising. In his justification for war to British Parliament, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said intervention “is right because we believe we should not stand aside while this dictator murders his own people.”

However media present in the capital Tripoli were reporting that Gaddafi was loading civilian ‘human shields’ into military infrastructure across the city, including women and children.

Gaddafi’s strategy has resulted in wavering support from the 22 member Arab League, when Secretary-General Amr Moussa condemned “the bombardment of civilians”.

The Arab League had pressed for a no-fly zone in a rare authorisation of force against one of their own member states – a deciding factor for intervention, according to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – however the Pentagon had emphasised even a no-fly zone would require destroying Gaddafi’s ability to fight back.

Veteran war correspondent Robert Fisk, writing for the UK’s Independent newspaper, observed that the West had largely ignored the fact that the powerful tribal group leading the rebellion in Libya, the Senoussi, were overthrown in 1969 when Gaddafi deposed their King Idris.

“Now let’s suppose they get to Tripoli. Are they going to be welcomed there? Yes, there were protests in the capital,” Fisk wrote, “but many of those brave demonstrators themselves originally came from Benghazi. What will Gaddafi’s supporters do? ‘Melt away’? Suddenly find that they hated Gaddafi after all and join the revolution? Or continue the civil war? The red, black and green ‘rebel’ flag – the old flag of pre-revolutionary Libya – is in fact the Idris flag, a Senoussi flag.”

President of the Maldives Mohamed Nasheed, who called for UN peacekeeper intervention in Libya at the start of the demonstrations,  welcomed the international coalition’s enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.

“The Maldives reiterates its desire to see a swift end to Gaddafi’s regime and hopes that the people of Libya will soon enjoy fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the President’s Office said in a statement.


Comment: We should not stand aside while this dictator murders his own people

The following is a statement given by British Prime Minister David Cameron to the British Parliament in a bid to justify the UN Security Council’s resolution to authorise international military intervention in Libya, ahead of today’s air strikes. Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed was among the first world leaders to urge intervention.

Over three weeks ago, the people of Libya took to the streets in protest against Colonel Gaddafi and his regime, asking for new rights and freedoms. There were hopeful signs that a better future awaited them, and that, like people elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa, they were taking their destiny into their own hands. Far from meeting those aspirations, Colonel Gaddafi has responded by attacking his own people. He has brought the full might of armed forces to bear on them, backed up by mercenaries. The world has watched as he has brutally crushed his own people.

On 23 February, the UN Secretary-General cited the reported nature and scale of attacks on civilians as “egregious violations of international and human rights law” and called on the Government of Libya to
“meet its responsibility to protect its people.”

The Secretary-General said later that more than 1,000 people had been killed and many more injured in Libya amid credible and consistent reports of arrests, detention and torture.

Over the weekend of 26 and 27 February, at Britain’s instigation, the UN Security Council agreed Resolution 1970, which condemned Gaddafi’s actions. It imposed a travel ban and asset freezes on those at the top of his regime. It demanded an end to the violence, access for international human rights monitors and the lifting of restrictions on the media. Vitally, it referred the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court so that its leaders should face the justice they deserve.

In my statement to the House on 28 February, I set out the steps that we would take to implement those measures. Our consistent approach has been to isolate the Gaddafi regime, deprive it of money, shrink its power and ensure that anyone responsible for abuses in Libya will be held to account. I also told the House that I believed contingency planning should be done for different scenarios, including involving military assets, and that that should include plans for a no-fly zone.

Intervening in another country’s affairs should not be undertaken save in quite exceptional circumstances. That is why we have always been clear that preparing for eventualities that might include the use of force—including a no-fly zone or other measures to stop humanitarian catastrophe—would require three steps and three tests to be met: demonstrable need, regional support and a clear legal basis.

First, on demonstrable need, Gaddafi’s regime has ignored the demand of UN Security Council Resolution 1970 that it stop the violence against the Libyan people. His forces have attacked peaceful protesters, and are now preparing for a violent assault on a city, Benghazi, of one million people that has a history dating back 2,500 years. They have begun air strikes in anticipation of what we expect to be a brutal attack using air, land and sea forces. Gaddafi has publicly promised that every home will be searched and that there will be no mercy and no pity shown.

If we want any sense of what that might mean we have only to look at what happened in Zawiyah, where tanks and heavy weaponry were used to smash through a heavily populated town with heavy loss of life. We do not have to guess what happens when he has subdued a population. Human Rights Watch has catalogued the appalling human rights abuses that are being committed in Tripoli. Now, the people of eastern Libya are faced with the same treatment. That is the demonstrable need.

Secondly, on regional support, we said that there must be a clear wish from the people of Libya and the wider region for international action. It was the people of Libya, through their transitional national council, who were the first to call for protection from air attack through a no-fly zone. More recently, the Arab League has made the same demand.

It has been remarkable how Arab leaders have come forward and condemned the actions of Gaddafi’s Government. In recent days, I have spoken with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. A number of Arab nations have made it clear that they are willing to participate in enforcing the resolution. That support goes far beyond the Arab world. Last night, all three African members of the UN Security Council voted in favour of the resolution.

The third and essential condition was that there should be a clear legal base. That is why along with France, Lebanon and the United States we worked hard to draft appropriate language that could command the support of the international community. Last night, the United Nations Security Council agreed that Resolution.

Resolution 1973 “Demands the immediate establishment of a ceasefire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians”. It establishes “a ban on all flights” in the airspace of Libya “in order to help protect civilians”. It authorises member states to take “all necessary measures to enforce compliance with the ban”.

Crucially, in paragraph 4, it “Authorises member states… acting nationally or through regional organisations or arrangements, and acting in co-operation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures…to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack… including Benghazi”.

The resolution both authorises and sets the limits of our action. Specifically, it excludes an occupation force of any form, on any part of Libyan territory. That was a clear agreement between all the sponsors of the resolution, including the UK, and of course, the Arab League. I absolutely believe that that is the right thing both to say and to do.

As our ambassador to the United Nations said, the central purpose of this resolution is to end the violence, protect civilians, and allow the people of Libya to determine their own future, free from the brutality unleashed by the Gaddafi regime. The Libyan population want the same rights and freedoms that people across the Middle East and North Africa are demanding, and that are enshrined in the values of the United Nations charter. Resolution 1973 puts the weight of the Security Council squarely behind the Libyan people in defence of those values. Our aims are entirely encapsulated by that resolution.

Demonstrable need, regional support and a clear legal base: the three criteria are now satisfied in full. Now that the UN Security Council has reached its decision, there is a responsibility on its members to respond. That is what Britain, with others, will now do. The Attorney-General has been consulted and the Government are satisfied that there is a clear and unequivocal legal basis for the deployment of UK forces and military assets. He advised Cabinet this morning, and his advice was read and discussed.

The Security Council has adopted Resolution 1973 as a measure to maintain or restore international peace and security under chapter VII of the United Nations charter. The resolution specifically authorises notifying member states to use all necessary measures to enforce a no-fly zone and to protect civilians and civilian populated areas, including Benghazi.

At Cabinet this morning, we agreed that the UK will play its part. Our forces will join an international operation to enforce the resolution if Gaddafi fails to comply with the demand that he end attacks on civilians. The Defence Secretary and I have now instructed the Chief of the Defence Staff to work urgently with our allies to put in place the appropriate military measures to enforce the resolution, including a no-fly zone. I can tell the House that Britain will deploy Tornadoes and Typhoons as well as air-to-air refuelling and surveillance aircraft. Preparations to deploy those aircraft have already started and in the coming hours they will move to air bases from where they can start to take the necessary action.

The Government will table a substantive motion for debate next week, but I am sure that the House will accept that the situation requires us to move forward on the basis of the Security Council resolution immediately. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House call on Colonel Gaddafi to respond immediately to the will of the international community and cease the violence against his own people. I spoke to President Obama last night and to President Sarkozy this morning. There will be a clear statement later today, setting out what we now expect from Colonel Gaddafi.

We should never prepare to deploy British forces lightly or without careful thought. In this case, I believe that we have given extremely careful thought to the situation in hand. It is absolutely right that we played a leading role on the UN Security Council to secure permission for the action, and that we now work with allies to ensure that that resolution is brought about. There will be many people in our country who will now want questions answered about what we are doing and how we will go about it. I intend to answer all those questions in the hours and days ahead, and to work with our brave armed services to ensure that we do the right thing, for the people of Libya, for the people of our country and for the world as a whole.

Tonight, British forces are in action over Libya. They are part of an international coalition that has come together to enforce the will of the United Nations and to support the Libyan people. We have all seen the appalling brutality that Colonel Gaddafi has meted out against his own people. And far from introducing the ceasefire he spoke about, he has actually stepped up the attacks and the brutality that we can all see.

So what we are doing is necessary, it is legal, and it is right. It is necessary because, with others, we should be trying to prevent him using his military against his own people. It is legal, because we have the backing of the United Nations Security Council and also of the Arab League and many others.

And it is right because we believe we should not stand aside while this dictator murders his own people. Tonight, of course our thoughts should be with those in our armed services who are putting their lives at risk in order to save the lives of others. They are the bravest of the brave. But I believe we should all be confident that what we are doing is in a just cause and in our nation’s interest.

David Cameron is the Prime Minister of the UK.

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