In June 2011 we reported on an excellent lecture by Michelle Alexander on how the so-called drugs war has been used to create a racial caste system in the United States of America. Whilst other human rights organisations shy away from the issue, HRI calls for an end of the “war on drugs.” Continue reading
Archives For racism
Some important reactions to the ethnic cleansing of Tawergha – The San Francisco BayView has followed up on the reporting of the Wall Street Journal, the Black Star News and Human Rights Investigations on the ethnic cleansing of Tawergha with an article entitled: Libya: Tawergha, city of Blacks, depopulated – Rep. Jesse Jackson calls for investigation of ‘crimes against humanity’
A Black Star News report follows the remarks made by NTC Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, giving the seal of approval to the ethnic cleansing.
Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr, who served as a national co-chairman of the 2008 Obama election campaign and who is a civil rights activist and stated on Wednesday:
“Racism in the form of ethnic cleansing, killing and genocide is wrong anytime, anyplace and against anybody in the world. And it appears as though the rebel leader, Mahmoud Jibril, is using the American idea that the South used to protect the institution of slavery – the 10th Amendment in our Constitution – to say, in essence, ‘it’s a states’ right and local control issue.’”
“Well, it’s not a local issue and it’s a moral outrage,” he added.
“As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ As a senior member of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, I intend to raise this issue with my colleagues and condition any financial support for the reconstruction of Libya and its transition to a democratic society.”
“I think it is absolutely necessary that the United Nations and the International Criminal Court in the Hague investigate what I consider to be crimes against humanity,” Rep. Jackson said.
As the SFBayView states:
The White House has yet to issue a single statement condemning this ethnic cleansing of Black people. Hillary Clinton’s Department of State remains mute. The leaders of organizations that profess to protect the rights of Black people, such as the NAACP’s Ben Jealous and the National Urban League’s Marc Morial, have yet to make statements. Surely, someone must read The Wall Street Journal.
As the SFBayView also states:
Other major corporate media, such as The New York Times, CNN and BBC, all of which to varying degrees surrendered pretense at “objectivity” and openly supported the NATO bombardments, are now in a bind. They have yet to report major stories on the ethnic cleansing in Misrata and Tawergha. Rather than concede that the side they supported in the civil war is carrying out war crimes, they would rather suppress the story.
The reaction of the United Nations
As yet there has been little direct response from the United Nations to the Black Star News:
Even the United Nations was unable to respond today to the ethnic cleansing reports when contacted by The Black Star News and after the Journal’s reports were forwarded. A spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was asked whether the targeted actions qualified as ethnic cleansing, whether they qualified as war crimes and whether the United Nations is demanding an investigation.
The spokesman, Eduardo del Buey, ignored the specific questions and responded with a statement from U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, which states in part “In situations of transition or unrest, restraint must be observed.” The spokesman explained:
“We are not commenting on media reports. the high commissioner speaks to the issue of human rights, and this is what she has said to date in Libya,”
Navi Pillay recently stated that “expectations that the UN will play its part are high and we must not disappoint them” – our expectation is that she will take some urgent action to protect civilians in Libya by working to bring an end to the NATO bombing and also make a firm statement, not just about the fate of migrant workers in Libya, but also about the ethnic cleansing of Tawergha and the abuses being committed against dark-skinned Libyans.
UN Resolution 2009 (2011)
This resolution, passed on Friday, makes some important provisions including:
“Strongly condemning all violations of applicable human rights and international humanitarian law, including violations that involve unlawful killings, other uses of violence against civilians, or arbitrary arrests and detentions, in particular of African migrants and members of minority communities’
South Africa’s representative, however, expressed disappointment that the resolution did not call specifically for the protection of the human rights of African migrants. Alongside the Russian Federation’s representative and other speakers, he also called for the early lifting of the no-fly zone. South Africa’s representative, however, expressed disappointment that the resolution did not call specifically for the protection of the human rights of African migrants. Alongside the Russian Federation’s representative and other speakers, he also called for the early lifting of the no-fly zone.
The final chapter is now being written for Tawargha, as reported by Sam Dagher of the Wall Street Journal
Mahmoud Jibril, the NTC prime minister, rubber-stamped the wiping of the town off the map at the Misrata town hall:
“Regarding Tawergha, my own viewpoint is that nobody has the right to interfere in this matter except the people of Misrata.”
“This matter can’t be tackled through theories and textbook examples of national reconciliation like those in South Africa, Ireland and Eastern Europe,” he added as the crowd cheered with chants of “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is greatest.”
The WSJ goes on to report:
Now, rebels have been torching homes in the abandoned city 25 miles to the south. Since Thursday, The Wall Street Journal has witnessed the burning of more than a dozen homes in the city Col. Gadhafi once lavished with money and investment. On the gates of many vandalized homes in the country’s only coastal city dominated by dark-skinned people, light-skinned rebels scrawled the words “slaves” and “negroes.”
“We are setting it on fire to prevent anyone from living here again,” said one rebel fighter as flames engulfed several loyalist homes.
For the former residents this is still not the end of the story, as reported recently by human rights workers in Tripoli, male inhabitants of the town who fled are being tracked down and rounded up in Tripoli and sent to Misrata to face the tender mercies of the mob there.
Today Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports on the arbitrary detention of black-skinned people in Tripoli.
HRW is one of the members of the “Responsibility to Protect coalition” and has been slow to condemn the racist atrocities of the Libyan rebellion and has little to say about the bombing of civilians by NATO in places like Zlitan.
HRW is not to be confused with Human Rights Investigations (HRI) which opposes the NATO bombing, supporting the African Union position on Libya and has worked to expose the racial element to the conflict
The HRW article contains evidence of black Libyans and sub-Saharan guest workers being abused in Tripoli, which have already been widely reported, as well as hopes for an “embryonic legal system” in Tripoli.
VIDEO SHOWS DEAD BODIES:
HRW witnessed black men being taken into the Bab al-Bahr football club – but weren’t allowed by the commander to see what was happening inside. The commander claimed the detainees were all “foreign fighters” but their families were outside complaining and the four they were allowed to interview who were apparently being released were elderly Libyans.
HRW also found black people – a mixture of black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans – detained in other places around Tripoli including the Maftuah prison in the Fernaj neighborhood, (300 detainees on September 1 including wounded). In this prison HRW described the conditions for Libyan detainees as acceptable, but
“the sub-Saharan Africans were in overcrowded cells with a putrid stench; one cell had 26 people and six mattresses and the African men complained of inadequate water, poor sanitation and not being allowed to make phone calls to ask family members to bring their documents.”
At a school in the Intisar neighborhood, 76 detainees incuding 3 women were found on September 1. About half of the detainees appeared to be sub-Saharan Africans, the remaineder being Libyans accused of having fought for Gaddafi. HRW saw the prisoners being prepared for transfer to the Mitiga air base.
One of the detainees, a 25 year old from Mali, was arrested at his house and complained that:
At about 10 p.m. a big group of Libyans came with the owner of the building. They tied us up, took all of our passports and possessions, and beat us. They brought us to a big mosque in the neighborhood, and then they went to other African houses and arrested them. In the end, they had more than 200 Africans in there. Then they put us on vehicles and took us around town shouting “Allahu Akhbar!” [“God is great”] and saying we were mercenaries they had captured.
HRW also visited Nigerian families at Girgarish, and one of the men, a carpenter, complained:
“I’m from Abu Salim, but our lives are not safe there because they say we’re mercenaries, they regard all black men as mercenaries.”
The HRW article contains new incendiary allegations of the use of “African mercenaries” (similar to the earlier allegations which Amnesty researchers found to be largely unfounded and which led to so many deaths).
According to the Article 47 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977 the definition of a mercenary is as follows:
2. A mercenary is any person who:
a) is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
b) does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities;
c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;
d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;
e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and
f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.
To be clear – all the above have to apply for someone to be considered a mercenary. Others apply even more stringent conditions and the security guards employed by the Americans in Iraq, Gurkhas employed by the British etc are not described as mercenaries.
All human rights organisations should focus on protecting black people in Tripoli, rather than their own institutional interests. We agree with Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch who states:
“It’s a dangerous time to be dark-skinned in Tripoli,
“The NTC should stop arresting African migrants and black Libyans unless it has concrete evidence of criminal activity. It should also take immediate steps to protect them from violence and abuse.”
Human Rights Investigations has been repeatedly warning about the Libyan rebels and it has become increasingly clear that racism lies at the very heart of the conflict in Libya. It now clear that the rebel forces are NATO (and Qatar and UAE)’s proxy fighters on the ground. Many of these fighters have been recruited and motivated on the basis of psy-ops about African mercenaries, fired up by viagra, mass-raping women and pillaging their cities – discredited stories which have been spread and amplified by rebel commanders, NATO ministers, the media and ICC prosecutor Moreno Ocampo.
The effects of this pernicious propaganda campaign have been seen in Benghazi, Misrata and Tawergha and across the nation and are now being seen on the streets of Tripoli as rebels round up black-skinned Libyans and African guest workers, putting them into football stadiums.
Virtually all of the detainees say they are innocent migrant workers, and in most cases there is no evidence that they are lying. But that is not stopping the rebels from placing the men in facilities like the Gate of the Sea sports club, where about 200 detainees – all black – clustered on a soccer field this week, bunching against a high wall to avoid the scorching sun.
In the Khallat al-Firjan neighborhood in south Tripoli, Associated Press reporters saw rebel forces punching a dozen black men before determining they were innocent migrant workers and releasing them.
Racism lies at the heart of many of the NATO campaigns, including in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq where innocents are slaughtered in a way that simply would not be accepted if the victims were white.
NATO’s chief weapon in the Libyan conflict has been and continues to be, not Brimstone or Paveway bombs, Tornados, Typhoons or Tomahawk cruise missiles – but racism.
To appreciate the importance of racism in motivating soldiers please listen to Mike Prysner’s speech made at the 2008 Winter Soldier hearings:
“And I tried hard to be proud of my service but all I could feel was shame and racism could no longer mask the occupation. These were people. These were human beings. I’ve since been plagued by guilt anytime I see an elderly man, like the one who couldn’t walk and we rolled onto a stretcher, told the Iraqi police to take him away. I feel guilt anytime I see a mother with her children like the one who cried hysterically and screamed that we were worse than Saddam as we forced her from her home. I feel guilt anytime I see a young girl like the one I grabbed by the arm and dragged into the street.
”We were told we were fighting terrorists, but the real terrorist was me and the real terrorism is this occupation. Racism within the military has long been an important tool to justify the destruction and occupation of another country. It has long been used to justify the killing, subjugation, and torture of another people. Racism is a vital weapon deployed by this government. It is a more important weapon than a rifle, a tank, a bomber or a battleship. It is more destructive than an artillery shell, or a bunker buster, or a tomahawk missile. While all of those weapons are created and owned by this government, they are harmless without people willing to use them.
”Those who send us to war do not have to pull a trigger or lob a mortar round. They do not have to fight the war. They merely have to sell the war. They need a public who is willing to send their soldiers into harm’s way and they need soldiers who are willing to kill or be killed without question. They can spend millions on a single bomb, but that bomb only becomes a weapon when the ranks in the military are willing to follow orders to use it. They can send every last soldier anywhere on earth, but there will only be a war if soldiers are willing to fight, and the ruling class: the billionaires who profit from human suffering care only about expanding their wealth, controlling the world economy, understand that their power lies only in their ability to convince us that war, oppression, and exploitation is in our interests. They understand that their wealth is dependent on their ability to convince the working class to die to control the market of another country. And convincing us to kill and die is based on their ability to make us think that we are somehow superior. Soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, have nothing to gain from this occupation.
”The vast majority of people living in the US have nothing to gain from this occupation. In fact, not only do we have nothing to gain, but we suffer more because of it. We lose limbs, endure trauma, and give our lives. Our families have to watch flag draped coffins lowered into the earth. Millions in this country without healthcare, jobs, or access to education must watch this government squander over $450 million a day on this occupation. Poor and working people in this country are sent to kill poor and working people in another country to make the rich richer, and without racism soldiers would realize that they have more in common with the Iraqi people than they do with the billionaires who send us to war
”I threw families onto the street in Iraq only to come home and find families thrown onto the street in this country in this tragic, tragic and unnecessary foreclosure crisis; only to wake up and realize that our real enemies are not in some distant land. But not people whose names we don’t know, and cultures we don’t understand. The enemy is people we know very well and people we can identify. The enemy is a system that wages war when it’s profitable. The enemy is the CEO who lays us off our jobs when it’s profitable; it’s the insurance companies who deny us health care when it’s profitable; it’s the banks who take away our homes when it’s profitable. Our enemies are not 5000 miles away, they are right here at home. If we organize and fight with our sisters and brothers, we can stop this war, we can stop this government, and we can create a better world.”
On the 12th July, Human Rights Investigations wrote:
“Given the atrocities committed in Misrata and Benghazi the option of allowing the rebels to conquer pro-Gaddafi population centres is inconceivable – there is now only one option – and that option is peace.”
Well, Mr Anders Fogh Rasmussen and NATO did not agree and the atrocities we feared are unfolding.
Amnesty today report on the killing of black and dark-skinned people in Libya after Amnesty workers personally see them targetted in Tripoli. The article clearly recognises this is part of a bigger pattern:
An Amnesty delegation visiting the Central Tripoli Hospital on Monday witnessed three thuwwar revolutionaries (as the opposition fighters are commonly known) dragging a black patient from the western town of Tawargha from his bed and detaining him. The men were in civilian clothing.
(Tawargha is the town south of Misrata about which HRI has MAJOR concerns as the inhabitants – whose fate is unknown – were dark-skinned.)
The thuwwar said the man would be taken to Misratah for questioning, arguing that interrogators in Tripoli “let killers free”. Two other black Libyans receiving treatment in the hospital for gunshot wounds were warned by the anti-Gaddafi forces that “their turn was coming”.
The delegation also witnessed a group of thuwwar beating a man outside the hospital. The man, in distress, was shouting “I am not a fifth columnist”, a reference to al-Gaddafi loyalists.
Amnesty International’s Diana Eltahawy on CNN (after the Alex Thomson report we covered before)
From the start of the Libyan rebellion black people in Libya have been attacked and lynched by rebel mobs. This has been known by human rights groups and the United Nations as well as by the intelligence agencies, military forces, media and political leaders in the NATO countries – but they have generally kept a lid on it because it does not suit the narrative.
It does not suit the narrative of an oppressed people standing up against tyranny and for human rights to find rebel lynch mobs targetting black people, lynching them and ethnically cleansing them. Human Rights Investigations has documented that these lynchings even happened at rebel HQ in Benghazi.
Below is graphic footage of another lynching – and as with other incidents we see large numbers of rebel supporters involved. HRI has far more graphic footage including Al Qaeda-style beheadings which we are keeping back as evidence. (Note for those submitting material: please provide information regarding provenance, time, place, perpetrators, victims and witnesses and soundtracks where possible)
Where reports of racial atrocities have reached the media, the story has been that the victims are “African mercenaries” despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Amnesty workers on the ground have reported that the widespread allegations of African mercenaries have little or no basis in fact – but this information has been suppressed and the fears of African mercenaries, extremely useful to the rebel side, have been whipped up by the media and NATO politicians such as UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox.
The rebel commander in Misrata threatened to ethnically cleanse Tawergha, the town to the south of Misrata occupied mainly by dark-skinned people – months later that object seems to have been achieved with direct air support from NATO – yet the crime has been ignored.
The entry of the rebel brigade from Misrata – which the Wall Street Journal reports calls itself the “brigade to purge black skin, slaves” into Tripoli, enabled by NATO, led to inevitable round-ups of black people, massacres and abuses of human rights including the slaughter of patients in the Abu Salim hospital.
Well, today are Amnesty reporting some of the facts in Tripoli although whether this will reach the mainstream media is another question.
Today, Amnesty also report some earlier incidents they witnessed recently:
On 29 August, Amnesty examined the body of an unidentified black man at the Tripoli Medical Centre morgue. He was brought into the morgue earlier that morning by unknown men. His feet and his torso were tied. He bore no visible injuries, but had blood smudged around his mouth. The state of his body pointed to a recent death. No autopsy report was available, and no identification documents were found on him.
On 28 August, Amnesty visited a group of Eritreans hiding in their home in a poor Tripoli neighbourhood. They told the organisation that they were staying indoors for fear of violent attacks. Their situation was particularly dire given the absence of electricity and running water.
It has now become clear that the Al Qaeda /Ku Klux Klan types who have taken over in Tripoli, and the rebels generally, are not as welcoming to human rights workers, UN observers and the whole panoply of western intervention as it appeared they might be when they were primarily concerned with spreading pro-rebel propaganda.
The dam holding back reporting of these incidents has been breaking in recent days as many journalists are in Tripoli and commendable individuals within the media corps have been prepared to report honestly about the situation. It is to be hoped that information about rebel crimes does not continue to be suppressed, reports delayed, excuses found and the black people of Libya betrayed.
The full coverage of rebel racist crimes is essential to protect the population in Tripoli and the prisoners and also because many black people in Libya live in the south of the country. It is the south (including Sabha in Fezzan) that will be attacked by NATO and the rebels in the coming weeks. Racist atrocities will follow and public pressure on the decision-makers has to be mobilised to try and prevent it happening.
Further specific evidence has emerged that there is a strong racist element within the rebel forces, including at command level, and it is the stated intention of these forces to ethnically cleanse areas they capture of their dark-skinned inhabitants.
Racism amongst the rebels including at command level
In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, journalist Sam Dagher pointed out the obvious fact that the Libyan war is aggravating ethnic tensions in that country. The article talks about the fate of Tawergha, a small town 25 miles to the south of Misrata, inhabited mostly by black Libyans, a legacy of its 19th-century origins as a transit town in the slave trade:
Ibrahim al-Halbous, a rebel commander leading the fight near Tawergha, says all remaining residents should leave once if his fighters capture the town. “They should pack up,” Mr. Halbous said. “Tawergha no longer exists, only Misrata.”
In the USA the drug laws are on the face of it color-blind and levels of drug-taking by whites and blacks are at equal levels. However the rules are selectively enforced and selectively prosecuted so that blacks are far more likely to be charged, sentenced and imprisoned.
This has led to a New Jim Crowe of mass incarceration of black people, at far higher levels than in apartheid South Africa, so that the USA today, under Obama, is, objectively speaking an institutionally racist state and something akin to a racial caste system has been built in America.
Michelle Alexander explains this in detail at in this lecture on selective enforcement: