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Libya: “Stop the massacre” - UN experts

GENEVA (22 February 2011) – “Power cannot be sustained by killing people,” said Tuesday a group of UN human rights experts*, who warned the Government of Libya that the gross violations of human rights committed in the past few days could amount to “crimes against humanity.”

“The situation in Libya is quickly spilling out of control with the Government targeting the very people it has been mandated to serve,” the independent experts said. “Adopting tactics such as the use of live ammunition to crush dissent is unacceptable.”

“Such acts cannot go unpunished,” stressed the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution, Christof Heyns. “By engaging in a massacre of its own people, the Government of Libya is guilty of committing gross violations of human rights which could amount to crimes against humanity.”

“It would raise very serious concerns if the reports about the use of military planes to attack the protesters are correct,” he added.

“We are also dismayed at reports of the alleged involvement of foreign 'mercenaries' in the killing of protesters, which is utterly reprehensible,” underscored José Luis Gómez del Prado, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries.

On his part, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan Méndez, described as “horrifying” the use of force by Libyan authorities against protestors: “It is heavy handed, illegitimate and cannot be justified.”

“It is important that the Libyan authorities realize that those responsible could be prosecuted by international criminal justice mechanisms or through universal jurisdiction,” he stressed.

Against the backdrop of the killings, there are also concerns of arbitrary arrests of individuals including lawyers, human rights defenders and journalists. “I urge the authorities to refrain from arbitrarily detaining people as a means to suppress dissent,” said Mr. El Hadji Malick Sow, Chair-Rapporteur for the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

“In addition, it appears that the authorities are attempting to restrict the dissemination of information on the atrocities being committed by cutting off landlines, Internet access and restricting media coverage,” said the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue. “Such conduct is deplorable.”

The group of experts welcomed the call made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for an international inquiry into the violence**. “We will provide the necessary expertise to ensure that the interest of justice are served,” concluded the experts who also reiterated the call made earlier to the Government of Libya to immediately cease the use of excess and lethal force.

(*) Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Christof Heyns; Chairperson-Rapporteur the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, Mr José Luis Gómez del Prado; Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Mr. Juan Méndez; Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Mr. El Hadji Malick Sow; Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Mr. Frank La Rue; and Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Ms. Margaret Sekaggya.

(**) Pillay calls for international inquiry into Libyan violence and justice for victims: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10743&LangID=E

For recent statements by UN human rights experts on the situation in Northern Africa and the Middle East, see:

Bahrain/Libya: UN experts urge authorities to guarantee right to protest without fear of being injured or killed: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10737&LangID=E;

Egypt: “Transition process should not overshadow accountability”: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10735&LangID=E;

Governments must pay more attention to people’s voices - UN experts: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10703&LangID=E

For more information and media requests, please contact Pasipau Wadonda-Chirwa (Tel.: + 41 22 917 9252 / email: pwadonda-chirwa@ohchr.org).