I would like to outline a few issues relating to a speedy and successful resolution of the tragedy that is unfolding in Libya.
While the media coverage is obsessed with “mission creep” and military stalemate, it is vitally important that every possible non-violent means of success is deployed to bring the situation in Libya to a successful conclusion, allowing a healthy and prosperous democratic state to emerge. Libya, and indeed all of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) stands at an historic watershed between the age of dictatorships and an incoming age of democratic development, and it is vital that non-violent means are maximised to bring about this change.
The Coalition Government shares our concerns about the propaganda issued from Gaddafi’s Al Jamahiriya 2 TV station. These broadcasts are an instrument of control for Gaddafi’s regime, and therefore work against the protection of the Libyan people. I appreciate the efforts made by HMG to persuade other elements in the Libya Contact Group to agree to bring pressure on Nilesat to withdraw their service to Libya. It is extraordinary that the profits of one corporation can be set against the interests of a whole nation, and I urge you to apply unrelenting pressure on Nilesat.
As well as blocking Al Jamahiriya 2, there are several other diplomatic avenues that need exploring, including the question of mercenaries, the question of recognition of the Transitional National Council and incentives for Gaddafi to leave Libya.
Some mercenaries are coming from lawless parts of the Sahel, but there are reports that others originate from as far away as Serbia. Can we be confident that sufficient pressure has been brought on all countries that have been sending mercenaries to Gaddafi? Have they at least been persuaded to cease sending more fighters? Have they taken whatever steps they can to recall their mercenaries from Libya? Is Government confident also that countries such as Israel and Algeria who are sending covert aid to Gaddafi are being challenged robustly about their position? It is reported that the Israeli companies have been recruiting for Gaddafi.
Regarding the matter of recognition of the TNC, HMG historically has recognised states, rather than regimes, and this position precludes recognition of the TNC until it controls the whole of Libya. However, historic positions must change when history changes. The post-2005 UN position of Responsibility to Protect has effectively replaced the concept of absolute sovereignty with sovereignty that is conditional on the regime acting in the interests of the people. This seismic shift must surely merit a reconsideration of the terms under which we recognise the TNC. To recognise them would be an enormous morale booster for this supremely courageous people, and would signify HMG’s commitment to bring the matter to a successful conclusion.
The International Criminal Court’s action in seeking the arrest of Gaddafi, although correct from a legal perspective, has the effect of increasing his motivation to stay in Libya. From a pragmatic point of view, in the interests of the security, if not the feelings, of the Libyan people, it would be helpful if Gaddafi were to be fully aware that HMG and the Allies will allow and facilitate his safe passage to a country outside of the jurisdiction of the ICC. Has this been made clear to Gaddafi?
In the longer term, there is a clear need to build on the foundations of Responsibility to Protect. Prevention is better than cure, and there is vital for the UN to set out a clear and consistent framework of norms and rules to nudge all governments in the direction of democracy and respect for human rights. The framework should provide incentives for any regime that makes progress towards democracy, and definite disincentives for any moves towards repression. At the present time, experience in Libya, Syria and Bahrain teaches us that a clear threshold is crossed when regimes use lethal force against peaceful demonstrators. Such actions should be met not merely with verbal condemnations, but with a set of targeted sanctions applied speedily and consistently in every case. The Contact Group has rightly been using asset freezes, travel bans and arms embargoes. These should be used consistently, without favour or bias that might tend to modify the reaction according to the strategic importance of the regime or any other considerations. It is well understood by psychologists that behaviour modification is successful when clear boundaries are set, and applied with 100% consistency.
In the longer term, it will be helpful if the UN would publish the human rights information that it gathers on its members in an easily digestible form. There is established academic work that can present this information in the form of ranked indices. Such a Global Index of Human Rights would provide a continuous, universal upward pressure for human and democratic development worldwide.
An important factor in the success of democratic change lies in the stance of the Army. The Egyptian Army refused to attack civilians, whereas the Syrian army seems to have no such scruples. We in the UK have an opportunity to set an example to other nations in the context of the military covenant that is being brought to Parliament. It would be right to bring a clause into legislation for the British Army to give an undertaking that in no circumstances will it obey any order to fire on unarmed civilians. I hope the Coalition Government will take this on board.
In summary, the events in MENA are of historic importance, a critical decision point between dictatorship, human rights abuses and violence, and the alternative of democracy and sustainability.