A Cycle of Permanent Intervention in Libya

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A Cycle of Permanent Intervention in Libya

(Photo: EPA)

In the aftermath of NATO's destruction of Libya, official rhetoric fluctuated between transition and reports of violence which were swiftly brushed aside as mere consequences of a country struggling to embrace a democratic framework.

While this framework still forms part of UN propaganda, the infiltration of the Islamic State group in Libya - particularly in Sirte - has not only ridiculed the diplomatic gibberish, but also reflects the extent to which the international community commits human rights violations under the auspices of the UN. This leaves the targeted country prone to additional violence from armed groups.

Interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch (HRW) with residents of Sirte, form the basis of a report that details the restrictions imposed by IS, as well as the armed group's obscene atrocities, which have rendered the area a macabre site of public beheadings and crucifixions.

Evidence of restrictions describes looting, the lack of basic necessities, the destruction of health services, forced disappearances, the obliteration of channels of communication, the recruitment of child fighters, the prohibition of political debate, harassing families to agree to their daughters marrying members of IS and the imposition of a dress code for women that sees girls as young as eight wearing the abaya, for fear of retribution from IS.

Prisoners must swear allegiance to the group as a condition of release - though this is not always enough to avoid further repercussions, an even execution.

Exile and the remaining Sirte population

It is important to note that more than two thirds of Sirte's population is exiled, having fled the area after NATO's total annihilation of the city and more recently since IS established itself as an authority in the power vacuum created by Western powers.

Given the tribal character of Libyan society, combined with the aftermath of NATO's invasion and the presence of IS, the displaced Sirte population has fragmented even further in the absence of refugee camps, leading to worsening economic problems in places such as Tripoli and Misrata.

Emergency assistance for displaced Sirte residents is negligible and does not even cover basic needs adequately. According to the report, Misrata Mayor Mohammed Eshtewi declared that 28,000 internally displaced people are seeking refuge in Misrata yet there is no financial assistance to cater to their needs.

The exiled population and those who remained in Sirte are experiencing different realities, but as always, options are limited when it comes to survival. Yet for those who have stayed in the city, an escape route may prove illusive, given IS's control over the population.

The parody of freedom affects all aspects of life, and for the residents subjected to IS's brutality, the tactics of survival are rapidly shifting, as demonstrated by the testimonies in the report. These accounts articulate both the horror and alleged "safety" given the group's imposition of severe punishments for the slightest misdemeanour.

International impositions in Libya

In addition to the two rival governments, the UN-backed unity government has added another element to the fray.

Since it became clear that the failed state has provided IS with the perfect environment in which to thrive, the international community has been pondering another intervention in Libya. It is no coincidence that the unity government's formation occurred as NATO members intensified their plans to militarise the Mediterranean as part of their proposed intervention in Libya.

Given that the unity government voiced its agreement with the plan, as well as NATO's request that any intervention should receive Libyan backing, it is clear that vested interests were a prerequisite for the timely, additional institution. This body now seeks to control Libya amid the cacophony of militias, tribalism and relics of governments funded by the same countries that planned Libya's downfall and inadvertently aided the rise of IS.

Ridiculing human rights and international law

IS has been branded a terror organisation by the international community that has itself squandered the lives of millions in the name of the so-called "Arab Spring". This myth has persisted despite evidence showing that the destruction of the Middle East is part of the "War on Terror" metaphor coined by former US President George W Bush as the initial pretext for the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The HRW report has demonstrated that there is now almost no distinction between the international community, international organisations and terrorism. Under the heading "International Legal Obligations", HRW states that "As the de-facto governing power in Sirte, ISIS is responsible under international human rights law for protecting and fulfilling without discrimination the rights of all its inhabitants, and ensuring their basic needs are met."

While IS is clearly exercising control and power over Sirte, it is inconceivable that that such rhetoric should comprise part of a report detailing human rights violations.

It is not simply the fact that IS holds no legitimacy, but rather the reliance on legal descriptions of governments and ruling entities which do not translate into a beneficial situation for Sirte's residents.

Once again, the international community and human rights organisations have exhibited their preference for report writing and regurgitation of legal clauses which are clearly obsolete. These do however continue to serve a clear purpose – that of ensuring the cycle of human rights violations remains a permanent political feature, a source of bargaining power and the means by which to sustain impunity.

It is safe to say that both NATO and IS in Libya have exposed the fallacy of international law and the UN. Derision, however, is short-lived, given the bloodshed and spread of global terror which was undoubtedly foreseen but allowed to flourish in the scramble for regional domination and chaos.

Attributing responsibility as enshrined in international law to IS may constitute the greatest fictional scenario ever written by human rights organisations. It is inconceivable to expect an armed group to even express concern over a segment of the population that it has terrorised through torture, forced disappearances and execution.

Equally, however, it is in the interests of the international community to uphold the split narrative about the monstrosity it created. IS, as is evident, can serve both the purposes of an armed group and a de-facto ruling entity according to whichever scenario most benefits the perpetrators planning another assault on Libya.

Ramona Wadi

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specializing in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law.

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