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South African President Urged to Focus on Human Rights in Libya

  • Peter Clottey

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma gives a statement after meeting with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in Tripoli, April 10, 2011 (file photo)

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma gives a statement after meeting with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi in Tripoli, April 10, 2011 (file photo)

An official of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch [HRW] says South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma should make human rights issues an important part of his agenda as he meets embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Monday.

Fred Abrahams, special adviser for the rights group, said there is need for President Zuma to express concern about the disappearance and the ongoing attacks on unarmed civilians.

Representing the African Union [AU], South African President Zuma, is scheduled to hold talks with Gadhafi in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, as pressure mounts on him to step down and cede power.

“We were disappointed in previous meetings that he [Zuma] apparently didn’t do this [talk about respect for human rights], and he is in a position to do so,” said Abrahams.

Abrahams said HRW will continue to compile evidence against masterminds of human rights violations in Libya.

“He [Zuma] has to sit down with the Libyan leader and say we are concerned about indiscriminate attacks against your own people,” he said. ”We are concerned about accountability, investigating and punishing Libyan senior officials who are violating the law.”

He also said despite international consensus, efforts to pressure the Gadhafi government to respect human rights have not been successful.

“In our opinion there needs to be much more. That’s why the message coming from the AU, coming from President Zuma today is so critically important. So that Gadhafi realizes that ‘I’ve gone too far in abusing the rights of my own citizens Libyans,’” said Abrahams.

He also acknowledged the challenge HRW faces in forcing the Libyan leader to respect human rights.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “applying pressure on someone like Moammar Gadhafi is not easy.”

Meanwhile, Britain's defense minister says London is adding “bunker-busting” bombs to the arsenal of British warplanes involved in the NATO campaign against the Libyan government.

Liam Fox said Sunday that NATO warplanes will not try to hit Gadhafi or his aides directly, but will send them what he called “increasingly loud messages.” NATO forces have carried out almost two months of airstrikes under a U.N. Security Council mandate to protect civilians from government attacks.

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