Gaddafi Envoys Abandon Libyan Regime, Urge Others to Follow

By Patrick Goodenough | February 21, 2011 | 4:34 AM EST

Seif al-Islam, son of longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, speaks on Libyan state television early Monday, Feb. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Libyan State Television)

( – At least three Libyan ambassadors reportedly have resigned to protest the deadliest crackdown of Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year rule, and one of them called on the rest of the country’s diplomats to follow suit.

Gaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, went on national television early Monday, warning of the danger of civil war and declaring that Libya’s armed forces had been ordered to restore order “at any price.”

“We will fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet,” said the younger Gaddafi, who has been Libya’s public face to the world in recent years as the regime has sought a return to international respectability.

Seif al-Islam also told Libyans – and the world – that Libya was “not Tunisia and Egypt,” a reference to neighboring countries whose long-ruling leaders were ousted in popular revolts in recent weeks.

Several days of violent clashes in Libya have left more than 200 people dead, according to reports from dissidents outside the country, human rights groups, medical staff and other sources. Most of the deaths were reported in Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city, where human rights groups said security forces were understood to have used live ammunition, including machine gun fire, against demonstrators.

There were also reports – again unconfirmed – that a senior military officer and troops under his command had joined the protestors in Benghazi. Several residents of the city told news outlets by phone that Benghazi had been “liberated.”

In concrete signs of eroding support for the regime, Libya’s ambassador to the Arab League, Abdel Monein al-Honi, told reporters Sunday he was defecting.

Demonstrators call for the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in front of the Libyan embassy in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

“I have submitted my resignation in protest against the acts of repression and violence against demonstrators and I am joining the ranks of the revolution,” Honi said in Cairo, where the 22-nation Arab League is headquartered.

Shortly after midnight Libyan time, al-Jazeera reported that Libya’s ambassador to China, Hussein Sadiq al-Musrati, had resigned while on air on the network’s Arabic channel. It said Musrati urged the army to intervene, and called on all Libyan diplomatic staff to follow his example and leave their posts.

Soon thereafter Libya’s ambassador to India, named as Ali al-Essawi, told BBC radio he had resigned. The phones at Libya’s missions in Beijing and New Delhi went unanswered on Monday morning.

In a rambling televised address Seif al-Islam accused Libyans living abroad of encouraging those in the country to revolt.

“The Libyans who live in Europe and USA, their children go to school and they want you to fight,” he said, according to excerpts translated by Al-Jazeera. “They then want to come and rule us and Libya. They want us to kill each other then come, like in Iraq.”

Seif al-Islam also accused non-Libyan Arabs of fomenting unrest, saying that “Tunisians and Egyptians … want to divide Libya and take over the country.”

(On Saturday the official JANA news agency quoted “sources” as saying dozens of foreigners had been arrested trying to “stir up chaos,” saying they included Tunisians, Egyptians, Sudanese, Turks, Palestinians and Syrians. The sources also claimed there were links with Israeli spy cells.)

Rumors circulated on Internet sites that Muammar Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela – a country whose leader, President Hugo Chavez, has drawn close to the Libyan in recent years. However, Seif al-Islam stated that his father remained in Libya, “leading the battle.”

Demonstrators call for the ouster of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in front of the Libyan embassy in Cairo, Egypt on Sunday, Feb. 20, 2011. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

The Obama administration said Saturday it was “gravely concerned with disturbing reports and images coming out of Libya.”

“We are working to ascertain the facts, but we have received multiple credible reports that hundreds of people have been killed and injured in several days of unrest – and the full extent of the death toll is unknown due to the lack of access of international media and human rights organizations,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement.

He said the administration had raised with Libyan officials including Foreign Minister Musa Kusa strong objections to the use of lethal force against peaceful demonstrators.

Appeal for ‘explicit warning’

Before the protests began last week the American Libyan Freedom Alliance in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday warned that violence was looming.

“Given Gaddafi’s appetite for violence and bloodshed, I am contacting you to give you an advance notice of the planned protest and potential for bloodshed by the Libyan regime,” wrote the alliance’s chairman, Mohamed Bugaighis.

“I ask you to issue an immediate, explicit warning to Gaddafi to refrain of committing any acts of violence against peaceful demonstrations,” he said.

Founded in 2003, the U.S.-based alliance says its objective is to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Libya.

Human Rights Watch called on governments with ties to Libya, including the U.S., Britain, African Union and European Union to publicly demand an end to the unlawful use of force against peaceful protesters, and to announce that those responsible for must be held accountable.

They should also impose an embargo on all exports of arms and security equipment to Libya, it said.

A coalition of 24 human rights groups from around the world urged the United Nations to call an emergency session of its Human Rights Council, and to suspend Libya from that body.

Libya was controversially elected onto the Human Rights Council last year, with 155 out of 188 voting countries supporting its candidacy.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow