Tripoli massacres unearthed

The charred remains of 53 bodies were discovered in a warehouse in Tripoli on Sunday. Local residents accused Gaddafi's most feared military unit, the Khamis Brigade, loyal to Gaddafi's youngest son, of the massacre. The residents reported hearing shooting several days prior. However, when they demanded answers, Gaddafi's forces threatened to kill them if they did not retreat. The simmering remains were found by residents and rebel forces, once they captured the southern area of the city. One man who claimed to have escaped the massacre said Gaddafi's forces had used the warehouse to execute...

Libyan rebel commander is previous terror suspect

The Libyan rebels' military commander was previously an Islamist terror suspect interrogated by the CIA, according to a claim made in the Independent today. Abdelhain Belhadj, responsible for the military success in Tripoli, had reportedly fought alongside the Taliban and was a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) - listed in the UK and US as a terrorist organisation. See full article in Independent here . See extracts below: "The 45-year-old first went to Afghanistan in the late 1980s, where he fought against occupying Soviet forces. Arrested in Malaysia in 2004, he was...

Of two African powers …

Whilst South Africa came into unexpected and ungainly confrontation with Western states over Libya this week, the other African power, Nigeria, has deftly come off the sidelines and joined the international action. Whilst South Africa is baulking at recognising the rebels’ National Transitional Council (NTC) as Libya’s authority, Nigeria moved swiftly to do so on Tuesday – just as the rebels overran Gaddafi’s base-complex in Tripoli.

Why South Africa relented …

The UN Security Council on Thursday released frozen Libyan assets so they could be used for emergency aid after the United States and South Africa ended a dispute. See AFP’s report here . The assets were frozen in US banks, but South Africa had blocked the release, saying it would imply recognition of the rebels' National Transitional Council (NTC). South Africa agreed to the release only after the Washington removed implicit recognition of the NTC from a document. With the dispute dragging on for two weeks, the United States had threatened to seek a full UN Security Council vote on Thursday...

Lessons for the West from Libya

“[I]t clearly can be in the US and the west’s strategic interest to help social revolutions fighting for the values we espouse and proclaim. The strategic interest in helping the Libyan opposition came from supporting democracy and human rights, but also being seen to live up to those values . “This value-based argument was inextricable from the interest-based argument. So enough with the accusations of bleeding heart liberals seeking to intervene for strictly moral reasons.” “ We also now know how different intervention looks when we help forces who want to be helped. East Timor, Bosnia-...

Rahul Gandhi: anti-corruption campaign undermines democracy

Rahul Gandhi, the scion of India's Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty and widely seen as a prime minister-in-waiting, said Friday that a popular anti-corruption campaign spearheaded by activist Anna Hazare was “a dangerous precedent for a democracy.” See AFP's report here . Hazare’s fast for a strong anti-corruption law is in its eleventh day and millions across India have rallied to the cause in huge protests. It was Gandhi's first public statement on an issue that has snowballed into a full-blown crisis for the government. "A process divorced from the machinery of an elected government, that seeks to undo checks and balances created to protect the supremacy of parliament, sets a dangerous precedent for our democracy," he said. Gandhi also said he had "serious doubts" about the idea that a single piece of legislation would eradicate the corruption that permeates all levels of Indian society. The dispute, however, is over the terms of an anti-corruption law presently before parliament that would create a new ombudsman. The BBC summarised some of the differences thus: Mr Hazare says ombudsman should have power to investigate prime minister and senior judges; the government refuses. Mr Hazare wants the ombudsman to be able to investigate MPs accused of taking bribes to vote or ask questions in parliament; the government says such probes should be carried out by MPs. In recent days, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who sat beside Gandhi as he spoke, has sought to reach out to Hazare with a series of conciliatory gestures aimed at bringing the hunger strike to an end. But at the beginning of his campaign, the government had taken a tough line, initially arresting Hazare and several thousand of his supporters in a move widely criticised as repressive and short-sighted. Meanwhile, three top Indian industrialists have expressed concern over the impact worsening corruption has on their businesses.

India under pressure over Kashmir mass graves

Pressure is mounting on India’s government to launch a full-scale investigation over 2,700 corpses found in unmarked graves across northern Kashmir. See report by Wall street Journal here . The existence of the graves, many of which hold the remains of civilians killed during the height of the Kashmir insurgency in the 1990s, has long been known by locals and was detailed in a 2008 report by a Kashmiri human rights group. But the report by the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) officially recognises the existence of the mass graves – and increases pressure on New Delhi to...

South Africa's dilemma over Libya

South Africa is blocking a US proposal at the UN Security Council to unfreeze $1.5bn of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's assets so they may used by the victorious rebel leadership for development and humanitarian work. South Africa says it will approve $500m for urgent humanitarian assistance, but not the rest, because the National Transitional Council has not been recognised by the UN itself. See The Guardian's report here . The NTC has been recognised by dozens of Western states, as well as neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia as the legitimate government of Libya. Urging South Africa to...

Bashir declares ceasefire in South Kordofan, but blocks foreign access

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has declared a “two-week unilateral ceasefire” with rebels in the troubled state of South Kordofan, during an unannounced visit to the state's capital of Kadugli. Bashir’s declaration was described by BBC’s correspondent as catching “his own military - and the rebels they are fighting - by surprise”. The move follows pressure from both the US and the UN, who are pushing for an independent investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as detailed by a UN report . Bashir did go on to say that not a single foreign agency would be allowed into the region, contradicting an earlier acceptance by his government to allow UN agencies access to South Kordofan. It comes days after talks between President Bashir and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) failed to reach a solution to end the crisis.

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