For Immediate Release: March 14, 2011
Washington, DC – Human Rights First is watching with mounting concern the advance of forces loyal to Libyan ruler Colonel Muammar Qaddafi. Noting that the military offensive is being carried out with scant regard for civilian life, Human Rights First is concerned that if Qaddafi’s forces retake control of major population centers – including the opposition capital, Benghazi – supporters of the opposition and other civilians risk of violent reprisals.
The organization is also voicing concern that further advances by Qaddafi’s forces may trigger mass flight to Libya’s borders, especially its Eastern border with Egypt that is closest to Benghazi. Such a refugee flight would worsen the growing humanitarian crisis in that area.
“Growing concerns for civilian safety underscore the need for an immediate declaration of a no-fly zone over Libya, one that is directed against forces loyal to Colonel Qaddafi and supported by a resolution of the UN Security Council,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks. “The imposition of the no fly zone would be triggered by evidence of the continuing targeting of non-combatants, a crime against humanity. If enforced, this no-fly zone order should be carried out by a multilateral coalition of forces, including neighboring states like Egypt and Tunisia, which are likely to suffer grave problems if conflict in Libya continues.”
Human Rights First continues to believe that a statement of resolve from the UN Security Council, showing readiness to take action, may deter Colonel Qaddafi from further violence and contribute to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The organization notes that the Arab League has already given its support to the call for a no-fly zone to prevent Colonel Qaddafi from using military force to quell the uprising in Libya.