I cannot understand what is keeping the Libyan Ambassador in Malta from denouncing the Gaddafi regime once and for all and switching allegiance to the National Transitional Council in Libya. Several of his colleagues in other EU countries have already done so. What is he waiting for?
Last week, along with a group of MEP colleagues, I had a meeting with the top officials of the Libyan Embassy in Brussels who, some time ago, did the logical thing and announced their allegiance to the Council.
They gave us a chilling account of the terror that Muammar Gaddafi is unleashing onto his own people. Little wonder that Col Gaddafi is now the most wanted man of the International Criminal Court.
Numbers. The number of people who have been killed so far has spiralled to over 15,000. Another 45,000 people are estimated to have been injured. This is genocide pure and simple.
Terror. The terror is unbelievable. People are holed up in their houses or, worse, in uninhabitable crowded hideouts wherever they manage to seek shelter. If they leave their house, even in the capital Tripoli, they risk being shot on suspicion of being friendly to the rebels.
On countless occasions, Col Gaddafi’s men are forcing their way into private dwellings onto unsuspecting families wreaking havoc onto their lives with insane shootings and indiscriminate rape.
Rape. This obscene criminal offence is being used as a weapon by the regime. Many women are being systematically raped by Col Gaddafi’s men and, at times, entire families are raped, including men and children. Women who are raped often end up victims of so-called “honour killings” at the hands of their own families who would rather kill them than live with the dishonour. So either way, you are dead.
Mercenaries. The regime still relies heavily on “imported” mercenaries.
They are typically combatants from other African countries and include members of the Republican Guard of Chad. Mercenaries were also brought in from as far as Colombia in Latin America.
Misurata. Col Gaddafi was banking on retaking Misurata, the closest city to Malta, geographically speaking. He hoped that, with this city under his control, he would hold on to the western part of the country and, at worse, only have to give up the eastern side that is dominated by Benghazi. His plan was foiled by the proud inhabitants of Misurata who fought him off managing to hang on against all odds, not least thanks to humanitarian supplies shipped from Malta.
Ministers. A number of ministers have long defected, whether to lead the struggle to depose Col Gaddafi or simply to flee the country, typically via Djerba in Tunisia. But a number of ministers are still held up in government quarters and blackmailed to hang on with the regime on pain of retribution against their families. Nevertheless, they do not exercise any effective power. The real power lies with the Gaddafi family. The Colonel’s sons are deemed to be omnipotent demigods who can do whatever they like regardless of whether it is lawful or not. Before the popular uprising started many of us had hoped that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi would turn out to be the “moderate” successor of his father. We were all proved wrong as he has since dropped his mask and revealed his true colours.
Political parties. These have been banned by the regime since the Colonel took power in a coup d’état in 1969. Forget about freedom to protest. It does not exist.
Petrol. In a country where petrol was virtually free, its price has now skyrocketed from 20c a litre to some $5. People queue for several days to be able to fill up and, when they do, the provisions are rationed. Obviously, people want to fill their cars to flee to the borders.
After Col Gaddafi. The National Transitional Council wants to set up a transitional government leading to national democratic elections.
They insist that the country belongs to everyone and a national reconciliation process will be undertaken in order to heal the wounds. Sympathisers of the regime who did not commit any criminal offences have nothing to fear. Of course, these claims will need to be examined by the international community in due course.
Recognition. So far, 15 countries have recognised the National Transitional Council as the “sole interlocutor” in Libya. Malta is among them.
Finance. Many countries around the world, including Malta, have blocked funds and assets belonging to the Gaddafi regime. Lest we forget, the Gaddafi family used to consider Libya’s immense wealth as its own personal assets. But these funds have still not been channelled to the National Transitional Council, which is in desperate need of money to finance its operations. Nor can the Council use funds from the sale of oil because refineries are blocked or held by the regime.
Humanitarian aid. There is an urgent need of humanitarian aid in Benghazi and in refugee camps on the borders with Egypt and Tunisia.
The European Union has already earmarked some €100 million in humanitarian aid. But it is not clear how much of this is actually translating into supplies, especially for hospitals in places like Benghazi where the situation is desperate.
I will be leading a European Parliament delegation to the camps on the border with Tunisia in the coming days.
Dr Busuttil is a Nationalist member of the European Parliament.
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