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March 07, 2011, Monday

Gaddafi’s right to bomb his own people

Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi is exercising his “right” to bomb his own people. This is a “right” enjoyed by dictators. But the implementation of such a “right” threatens not only the nationals of Libya but regional and international security, thus the international community cannot remain indifferent to the massacres of people in Libya by Gaddafi.

The UN Security Council decided to impose sanctions and the International Criminal Court will be investigating the events in Libya to determine whether they constitute a crime against humanity. These are all welcoming measures but they still may prove ineffective to stop the massacres of the people.

Imposing an arms embargo, a travel ban and freezing the assets of Gaddafi, his family and his close associates, will not prevent the regime from committing further crimes. Besides, contrary to the claims by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, they do not harm the Libyan people. The UN Security Council sanctions can only be criticized for not being strong enough. I think more should be done.

The Libyan case forces us to rethink the link between a legitimate regime based on respect for human and citizens’ rights and international security. We should be aware of the fact that there exists a link between respect for human rights and maintaining national and international security. A working human rights regime constitutes one of the prerequisites for providing national security, which is domestic peace based on a wide-ranging social consensus concerning the legitimacy of a political regime.

Those who approach politics from a security-centric point of view should keep in mind that demands for human rights are, in fact, generated from the security concerns of individuals. Thus, human rights in their essence reflect the search for physical and moral integrity of individuals. The idea of the inviolability of basic rights and freedoms aims at “securing” the individual as a moral agent. Thus one can ground human rights in a search for security at the individual level with undeniable links to security at a national level.

There exists, therefore, a tight link between individual security put forward as demands for human rights, and collective security at national level. It is rather impossible to reach the objective of national security in countries where systematic and persistent human rights violations take place, let alone the massacres we have been seeing in Libya. Massive human rights violations destroy domestic peace and security by undermining the legitimacy of the political system. What is left then is not a legitimate government but a sheer mechanism of violence.

Furthermore global peace and security is built through a legitimate government nationally that respects the basic rights of its citizens. Therefore, while the respect for human rights enhances national security, the state that is involved in systematic and massive violations of human rights endangers not only national but also international peace and security.

It is necessary and relevant to investigate the interplay between respect for human rights and international security for at least two reasons. First, the behavior of a state in the international arena cannot be separated from the way in which it treats its own citizens at home. This is to say that the kind of political regime prevalent domestically strongly influences its policy towards the outside world. Second, violations of human rights do not only harm individuals, groups or the people in the country concerned but may well endanger others, particularly in regional countries, as the repercussions of human rights violations cannot be confined within national borders. For instance, the outflow of refugees, which is one of the most tragic outcomes of human rights violations, may reach a massive scale in some cases with grave security implications for both the sending and receiving countries, damaging both regional and international security. This is clearly being seen in the Libyan case as hundreds of thousands of foreign workers are either trapped in Libya and the outpouring into neighboring countries, which is creating a humanitarian crisis.

Hence, the kind of political regime and the form of state-society relationship lay at the heart of the stability-instability problem determining, to some extent, prospects for international peace. This is to say that international security is dependent on domestic peace, which is in turn heavily influenced by the level of respect for human rights and a legitimate national government.

No ruler has the absolute right to treat its people any way he wishes. There are moral and legal limits to a sovereign’s right to kill his own people. And I think Gaddafi has passed that limit and this necessitates measures to stop him.

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