By Polly Johnson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
BENGHAZI, Libya – In the wake of mass protests in Egypt and Tunisia, anti-government demonstrators took to the streets of Libya late Tuesday, clashing with police and government supporters.
Demonstrators gathered Wednesday morning to show support for detained human rights activist, outspoken government critic and lawyer Fathi Terbil, who was released on Wednesday morning. Dozens have already been injured.
Protestors chanted “Down, down to corruption and to the corrupt,” and “No God but Allah, Moammar is the enemy of Allah,” directed at Colonel Moammar el-Qaddafi, who has ruled Libya for four decades.
Demands for Qaddafi’s resignation came in the form of a statement, which was signed by political activists, lawyers, students and government officials. Various prominent Libyans and members of human rights organizations have said that Libyans have the right to express themselves through peaceful demonstrations without retaliation by the ruling regime.
As reported by CNN, one source close to Libya’s government speaking anonymously said, “There is nothing serious here. These are just young people fighting with each other.”
However, police reportedly fired tear gas and used other violent means to disperse protestors.
Amnesty International called on the Libyan government to permit peaceful protests. Malcom Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, said, “The Libyan authorities must allow peaceful protests, not try to stifle them with heavy-handed repression,” adding, “Libyans have the same rights as Egyptians and Tunisians to express discontent and call for reform in their own country, and it is high time the Libyan government recognized that and respect it.”
“The Libyan authorities have a responsibility to maintain public order, but they also have a responsibility to uphold human rights, including the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” Smart said.
Other protests have erupted in Bahrain, Yemen, Iran and Algeria, indicating the widespread impact of Egypt’s successful protests.
For more information, please see:
Al Jazeera – Violent protests break out in Libya – 16 February 2011
Amnesty International – Libya urged to end protest crackdown – 16 February 2011
BBC – Libya protests: Second city Benghazi hit by violence – 16 February 2011
Bloomberg – Bahrain, Yemen, Libya Face Protests as Region’s Unrest Spreads – 16 February 2011
CNN – Protests spread to Libya – 16 February 2011
NPR – Fire From Egypt, Tunisia Flares Across Arab World – 16 February 2011