Libya Facebook Chat Transcript

Libya Facebook Chat Transcript

March 25, 2011

 

David Stamps, Amnesty USA's Libya Country Specialist hosted a Facebook discussion on March 25, 2011 to answer questions about the situation in Libya. Below is the transcript:

 

DAVID STAMPS (Country Specialist) POSTING:
Hello, My name is Dave Stamps and I am the Libya Country Specialist for AIUSA. We are going to have a live chat at 1pm eastern time today. Bring your Questions!

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA POSTING: Join us TODAY from 1:00-2:00 PM EST for a live chat on the crisis in Libya. You will be able to post your Questions directly to Amnesty International USA's Facebook page wall. Looking forward to the discussion!

Question: Are the U.S. airstrikes in Libya legal?

Answer: Amnesty does not have a position on the legality of airstrikes. However, we urge that civilians be protected during hostilities by all parties. The airstrikes were authorized by UN Resolution 1973/2011. Others can debate if that makes them "legal."

Question: I have a Question, for the rebels that are trying to over throw their government, what do they propose as a replacement government? And how do they feel about America?

Answer: We don't have any information on how the government might look. We don't have any information on how they feel about America.

Question: Are those that are considered rebels in Libya being led by anyone? Any names that stand out (like in the Egyptian protests it was Mohamed ElBaradei that I heard a lot about) and how do they feel about the UN intervention?

Answer: The media has reported Mustafa abdul Jalel, the former justice minister as head of the National Council.

Question: Mr. Stamps: Could you please explain, in layman's terms if possible, what you understand to be the goal of the United States in this mission (militarily)? Thanks!

Answer: Amnesty International is not in a position to answer that question directly. But as point of information, UN Resolution 1973/2011 was endorsed by the United States.

Question: Who is in charge of the United States military? The U.N. or the United States?

Answer: I suggest you check the media for that answer.

Question: Libya claims that over 100 innocent civilians have been killed so far due to the bombing campaign. Has this been confirmed?

Answer: It is unclear what, if any, civilian casualties have been caused by air strikes. At this point it is unclear whether civilians have been hit or if the Libyan Government has created scenes for the benefit of journalists. See recent AP article: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AF_LIBYA?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Question: David, are you in Libya now?

Answer: (David Stamps) No I am not, but we have had researchers on the ground in Libya. Amnesty International USA Here is the most recent blog from our researcher in Benghazi: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/africa/tales-of-terror-as-rockets-fall-on-ben... I am not in Libya now, but we have researchers who have been and might still be there now. Refer this blog posting: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/africa/tales-of-terror-as-rockets-fall-on-benghazi/

Question: What is Amnesty International doing to protect the Libyan civilian population? Especially people in their houses now that Gadhafi's troops are going door to door?

Answer: While we welcome the strong emphasis on the protection of civilians in Libya reflected in UN Security Council resolution 1973, we call on all parties to the conflict, including any external forces acting under the authority of the UN Security Council, to put the protection of civilians above any other considerations. “It is critical that all Libyan and any other forces that may become involved in the conflict to respect fully the laws of war.” They need to know that they will be held accountable under international law

Question: When the US leaves Libya to a clearly unstable leader, won't he simply kill the people who wanted the US support?

Answer: Amnesty does not have a position on that except as I expressed that all civilians should be protected. This is not just about the U.S. Many other countries are concerned about what Ghadafi would do.

Question: How much access and ability to monitor does Amnesty and other NGOs currently have within either loyalist or rebel forces?

Answer: The situation in Libya is volatile and makes it very difficult to have a presence in the country. The events are country-wide. Some information comes from humanitarian NGO's and other from media. We have sources within Libya that we are in contact with.

Question: I heard that the NY Times reporters have been freed. Is there word of the four missing Al Jazeera journalists?

Answer: The Al Jazeera journalists have not been released to the best of our knowledge. To read more about the missing Al Jazeera journalists: http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGPRE201103212245&lang=e As far as I know, the Al Jazeerea journalists are still in Libya Government custody. Question: I'm wondering if the armed rebel group are considered civilians.

Answer: Generally, civilians are understood to be non-combatants.

Question: What happened to the foreign laborers who were stranded at the Tripoli Airport? Did they get out or are they now trying to survive with airstrikes?

Answer: As far as we know, the airport is closed. Amnesty also called on all parties to ensure that any civilians who want to flee the country be allowed safe passage to the borders in safety, and to ensure that anyone fleeing Libya is allowed immediate access to whichever country they are able to reach, without discrimination. We have an online action you can take calling for assistance for those fleeing the violence in Libya: http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/c.jhKPIXPCIoE/b.6597159/k.F1B0/Help_Refugees_and_Migrants_Fleeing_Libya/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx

Question: Do you think the No Fly Zone is being effective?

Answer: We cannot judge the effect except to note that media reports that the Libyan Air Force is no longer operational. Question: How is the uprising in Libya connected to the uprisings in other countries in the Middle East?

Answer: As in all the countries, the Libyans have had aspirations for years and years. The events in Tunisia and then Egypt increased that hope. The first public manifestation of this was the demonstration on Feb 17. There was a smaller demonstration Feb 17 2006 where at least a dozen people were killed by security forces and in 2007 14 anti-government activists were detained after an on-line appeal for a peaceful protest. We've compiled all of our statements, blog posts and actions on all countries involved in uprisings in the Middle East/North Africa here: http://bit.ly/ikyhCD Hope that is helpful.

Question: How can we be sure that US and Western Corporations do not share the spoils of Libyan Oil once the crisis is presumably resolved, more than they already have?

Answer: This is out of the scope of Amnesty's work. I am sure there are other websites where this would be an appropriate topic.

Question: So far in the conflict have there been instances of 'POW'-style detainment of captured fighters or sympathizers, or are both sides taking no prisoners?

Answer: We have not reported on prisoner treatment, yet

Question: Could you name a few Humanitarian aid organizations that are active in Libya right now?

Answer: Doctors without Borders and the UN High Commission on Refugees. I also think the Red Crescent has a presence. The situation is dangerous for medics as well, here's a recent blog post on the targeting of medical professionals in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/middle-east/horrifying-trend-medics-brutally-attacked-in-middle-east-protests/

Question: Amnesty's own blog says that Gaddafi soldiers could be wearing plain clothes, citizens are wearing plain clothes... rebels could be wearing plain clothes... whose side is the UN on and if on the rebels, how are they distinguishing between a acceptable kill and a not acceptable kill? Is there a number yet on anyone dying?

Answer: The UN is concerned about protecting civilian non-combatants. We do not have casualty numbers. The UN resolution 1973/2011 is about protecting civilians.

Question: I want to know WHY these states are all rebelling - and what is the truth WITHOUT the Sky News/CNN viewpoint. What on earth is going on??? (South Africa)

Answer: For years we have been reporting on deteriorating human rights conditions in these countries. This is a broad social movement. Also, the growth of independent satellite television media has been a factor. Social networks have also improved the coverage of events through independent media and the communication of people within the countries. We've compiled all of our statements, blog posts and actions on all countries involved in uprisings in the Middle East/North Africa here: http://bit.ly/ikyhCD

Question: Why is it when the UN decides that it is going to attack something they send the US and then the other countries in the UN see the US as the bad guy? France fired ONLY 1 missile (information might be a day or two old) the US...164! England, 12 tomahawks, these other countries are out of missiles. The USA DOES NOT need the UN. The UN needs the USA. And by the way... which country in the Middle East isn't uprising... couldn't be Iraq could it? Hey we shouldn't be there in the first place, but when we show up to a gun fight, we bring more than 1 bullet. If the people of Libya don't like THEIR government, let them figure it out.

Answer: Amnesty does not have a view on this subject. Since this Question is not about human rights, I will pass on it. Let's leave this political argument to other venues.

Question: Does Amnesty have a position regarding a most desirable outcome in this situation beyond hoping for the lowest loss of life possible? By desirable outcome, I mean with regards to a resultant government, ceasefire, division of the country, etc.

Answer: Amnesty does not have a position on forms of government. However, we urge all governments to fully respect their citizens’ human rights and to provide an institutional framework to enable and protect those rights. For example an independent judiciary.

Question: Does Amnesty have a position regarding a most desirable outcome in this situation beyond hoping for the lowest loss of life possible? By desirable outcome, I mean with regards to a resultant government, ceasefire, division of the country, etc.

Answer: Amnesty does not have a position on forms of government. However, we urge all governments to fully respect their citizens’ human rights and to provide an institutional framework to enable and protect those rights. For example, an independent judiciary.

Question: From the situation as it stands now, could you comment on what you see as the most desirable likely outcome? This can be in the context of your own personal opinion (given your knowledge of the situation on the ground) rather than any position of Amnesty’s etc. (Apologies if this is the wrong kind of forum or if things are too confused right now to even appropriately address this.)

Answer: (David Stamps) I don't know if it is likely, but I would like to see a Libya where citizens are free to express their views without fear of repression and with a functioning government that respects the human rights of its citizens. Four main points:

  1. Police that protect citizens 
  2. A government that condemns torture and other ill-treatment
  3. A country that upholds freedom of expression, association, and assembly
  4. An independent and impartial justice system that ends impunity for human rights perpetrators

Question: Does Amnesty Int. believe that there was a "Rwanda-like" situation brewing?

Answer: Based on the reported killings of unarmed civilians, we were concerned that further killings were very possible and could have escalated further. For this reason, AI supported calls to refer reports of violations to the International Criminal Court. We also called on the UN to launch an immediate mission to investigate reports of mass killings. See our original statement on this: http://www.amnestyusa.org/document.php?id=ENGUSA20110225003&lang=e

Question: UN is concerned about protecting citizens, not combatants. Is there a number you can give us about how many citizens were killed before UN intervention that is not muddied by Gaddafi or rebels trying to manipulate numbers or distinguishing between unarmed rebels and non combative citizens?

Answer: Amnesty has confirmed specific incidents of as many as 50 civilian casualties killed by Libyan government authorities. However, under the circumstances we are not able to provide cumulative figures.

Question: What happens when the rebels over throw the country, we realize that they were the Muslim Brotherhood and set up a caliphate and attack the US?

Answer: The opposition is not the same as the Muslim Brotherhood. Our research is that the "opposition" is citizens who are starved for freedom and dignity and following the events in Tunisia and Egypt, are trying to take back their freedom.

Question: Oh this ends at 2pm! Are the people of Libya generally supportive and transparent? I know they are very hospitable... but I heard that some people have a certain distrust for Western organizations... What types of projects and how long has Amnesty been in Libya? (Sorry if some of my Questions are asked a bit ignorantly or simple that I could look up myself)

Answer: The people of Libya have been under the thumb of a dictatorship for over 40 years. They fear retaliation for speaking out. I think the main distrust would be that their comments would find their way back to the government. Question: Lots of Questions, how many researchers with facts?

Answer: Not sure what you mean by "with facts". We don't have enough researchers and they change often in position and responsibilities. We also do research outside the Secretariat in London. We generally do not share this information, but feel that we could use more if we had the resources!

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA POSTING: Thanks for participating in our live chat on Libya! We'll post a transcript of the chat to our blog soon (blog.amnestyusa.org). We'll be ending in a few minutes but David will go back to make sure he's answered all of the Questions that have come in to our Wall. Thanks again!

Question: Amnesty, thank you for conducting this live chat.. wish I'd have gotten in earlier. Do you have any opinions on the U.S. decision to intervene in Libya, but our seeming lack of desire to intervene in Yemen where 52 peaceful protesters were killed by gov't snipers Monday? Is it merely because the Yemeni gov't has been willing to act as a proxy for U.S. policy in the region (ie. taking credit for U.S. bombing raids, etc.)?

Answer: A decision to call for any use of armed force or any form of military intervention is made in exceptional circumstances only. Amnesty’s current assessment is that we should not now call for any form of military intervention. In essence, we have concluded that at this moment we do not have sufficient reliable information to support any such call, and our judgment is that foreign armed intervention would at this point be counterproductive.

Question: I realize it is 2:06 however I was wondering if you could Answer a Question for me. How long does the U.S. plan on being apart of this controversy in Libya? And could you tell me how much impact we are currently having over there? I know that a few of our jets have been shot down, but I thought that our cruise missiles were supposed to disable their radar and many of their top resources of attack.

Answer: Amnesty International is an international human rights organization. We do not have any information of specific U.S. involvement. We are prepared to monitor and criticize any parties in the conflict comitting human rights violations.

DAVID STAMPS (Country Specialist) POSTING: We are coming to a close of this chat. I just realized I missed a few Questions which I will get to right away. You can help us! The civilian refugees at both borders need to be protected. Please go to this link to help the refugees trying to escape the conflict: http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/index.aspx?c=jhKPIXPCIoE&b=2590179&template=x.ascx&action=15487

Also, come to our Libya country page: http://www.amnestyusa.org/all-countries/libya/page.do?id=1011189

And also the AIUSA North Africa Facebook Page http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_177504612289047