Fri. May 20th, 2022

Under a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocol I, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, eyewitness accounts and video from Libya indicate beyond a reasonable doubt that Gadhafi forces have been systematically targeting non-combatant journalists in what amounts to war crimes against humanity.

On February 23, Gadhafi’s deputy foreign minister Khaled Khaim declared that Gadhafi’s regime “considers [uninvited journalists] as… collaborating with Al-Qaeda and as outlaws and [the regime is] not responsible for their security.” The 42-year regime has kept this brutal promise by illegally detaining, torturing, systematically attacking, and even killing journalists throughout the country.

Reporters sans Frontières (Reporters without Borders) expressed “outrage” for the assassination of Ali Hassan Al Jaber, a cameraman for Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, after reporting about anti-Gadhafi protests outside opposition-held Benghazi. The newly-formed, opposition-backed Interim Transitional National Council has expressed its sympathies to the Al Jaber family, and Benghazi has held a martyr’s funeral for Al Jaber.

Although positive identification of Al Jaber’s assailants has been difficult to ascertain, this murder falls in line with countless attacks against journalists by Gadhafi forces throughout Libya. “This murder, which occurs so soon after the detention and torture by [Gadhafi] security forces of three BBC correspondents – who were beaten and subjected to a mock execution – is particularly disturbing,” said Malcolm Smart, Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International. Al Jaber’s colleague, Wald Amhadi, noted that the type of ammunition used in the attack (disintegrating frangible bullets) was the same type that pro-Gadhafi forces have been using against civilians.

On March 15, oppositional forces arrested a Gadhafi “death squad” in Ajdabiya, with evidence linking them to the murder of Al Jaber. These four men were found with weaponry from the 32nd Brigade, lead by Gadhafi’s son Khamees. Under questioning, the suspects confessed that they had been “ordered to silence opposition figures and drive out international presence from territories of the protest movement.”

Other eyewitness accounts indicate that Gadhafi’s campaign of violence against journalists is increasing. On March 11, CNN Senior International Correspondent Nic Robertson was threatened, interrogated, manhandled, and taken against his will by “Gadhafi thugs” when trying to report in Tajoura. While reporting on the massacre in Zawiya on March 9, Australian-based Sky News reporter Alex Crawford was repeatedly fired upon by Gadhafi forces while in a clearly-labeled ambulance. Journalists reporting for Al-Jazeera have been particularly targeted by Gadhafi’s regime. On March 10, Al-Jazeera correspondent Tony Birtly and crew were ambushed, their car riddled with bullets . On March 11, an all-female crew was similarly fired on by mortar fire . “It’s a very dangerous climate for reporters right now [in Libya],” said Clothilde Le Coz, Washington director for Reporters Without Borders. Dan Murphey of the Christian Science Monitor corroborates this danger. “All indications are that Gadhafi wants to drive most of the foreign press from the country.”

Countless journalists have been kidnapped, with many of them in undisclosed Gadhafi-regime detention centers. On March 2, Libyan authorities detained reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad of Britain’s Guardian newspaper, and Andrei Netto of Brazil’s Estado de S. Paulo newspaper. Netto was released by pro-Gadhafi authorities on March 11, and Abdul-Ahad was released on March 16. On March 16, the New York Times reported that four of their correspondents in Libya are missing. Anthony Shadid, Stephen Farrell, Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario are all experienced war reporters. Second-hand accounts indicate that these four were last seen at a regime checkpoint between Ajdabiya and Benghazi.

An Al-Jazeera reporter currently in Libya states, “[Gadhafi’s forces are] hunting us, they have escalated [these attacks against journalists] to an international incident.”

New York based Committee to Protect Journalists has documented more than 40 illegal attacks on media since anti-Gadhafi freedom protests began in February. Unfortunately, many accounts are not included in this number, as Gadhafi’s regime has effectively blocked communications for much of the country.

Libya Outreach Group Twitter: @Libyaoutreach

By ahmed

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