UN calls for Libya cease-fire as death toll climbs to 1,000

A migrant picks up clothes from among rubble at a detention centre for mainly African migrants that was hit by an air strike in the Tajoura suburb of the Libyan capital of Tripoli. (Reuters)
Updated 06 July 2019
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UN calls for Libya cease-fire as death toll climbs to 1,000

  • Among the dead are 53 migrants killed Tuesday night in an air raid on a detention center in the Tripoli suburb of Tajoura
  • The fighting has forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes and threatens to plunge Libya into deeper conflict

 

TRIPOLI: The UN Security Council called Friday for a cease-fire in Libya as the death toll from a three-month offensive on Tripoli reached 1,000, including scores killed in an air strike that hit a detention center for migrants.
The council condemned the late Tuesday attack on the Tajoura detention camp east of Tripoli and “stressed the need for all parties to urgently de-escalate the situation and to commit to a cease-fire,” said a joint statement.
Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, whose forces hold eastern Libya and much of the country’s south, launched an offensive in early April to wrestle the capital from forces loyal to the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
Air strikes and ground fighting have since left nearly 1,000 people dead and some 5,000 wounded, the UN’s World Health Organization said.
The fighting has forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes and threatens to plunge Libya into deeper conflict.
Among the dead are 53 migrants killed Tuesday night in an air raid on a detention center in the Tripoli suburb of Tajoura, held by the GNA, which accused Haftar’s forces of carrying out the strike.
A Geneva-based spokesman for the International Organization for Migration said six children were among the migrants killed.
Joel Millman said that 350 migrants, including 20 women and four children, were still detained at the center, one of five air hangars hit in the raid.
World powers have been divided over how to respond to Haftar’s offensive, with the United States and Russia refusing to condemn the Libyan strongman.

FASTFACT

 

Some 5,700 refugees and migrants are being held in detention centers in Libya, 3,300 of whom are vulnerable to fighting in and around Tripoli.

The British-drafted council statement condemned the attack on the migrant camp, called for a return to political talks and for full respect of the arms embargo on Libya.
It followed a closed-door council meeting on Wednesday during which US diplomats said they needed more time to consult with Washington on the proposed text.
The United Nations has called for an independent investigation to determine who was responsible for the strike on the center, which housed some 600 migrants, mainly from African countries.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey — which backs the GNA — called for an end to “unlawful attacks” by Haftar’s forces during a meeting with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj in Istanbul on Friday, the Turkish presidency said.
UN agencies and humanitarian groups have repeatedly voiced concern over the plight of thousands of migrants and refugees held in detention centers near combat zones in the capital.
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed outrage over the attack and said the United Nations had shared the coordinates of the detention center with the warring sides to protect the civilians.
The carnage in Tajoura was “a tragedy that should have never happened,” said Charlie Yaxley, spokesman for the UN’s refugee agency.
Libya has become a major conduit for migrants seeking to reach Europe and remains prey to numerous militias vying for control of the country’s oil wealth.
Rights groups say migrants face horrifying abuses in Libya, and their plight has worsened since Haftar launched the offensive against Tripoli.
According to the UN, some 5,700 refugees and migrants are being held in detention centers in Libya, 3,300 of whom are vulnerable to fighting in and around Tripoli.
An initial lightning assault in early April saw Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army steam toward the capital. But they have since been bogged down on its southern outskirts, where frontlines have been frozen for months.
GNA forces launched a surprise counter-attack late last month, seizing the strategic town of Gharyan, the main supply base for Haftar’s offensive.
After the setback, Haftar’s forces threatened to intensify strikes against their rivals.
Both sides have launched daily air raids throughout the fighting and each lost several planes.
The rival camps have remained convinced that with the help of their backers, they can win the battle.
The GNA receives support from Turkey and Qatar, and Haftar is backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and according to experts, to some degree by the United States.


‘A dumb thing to do’: Trudeau apologizes for brownface

Updated 19 September 2019

‘A dumb thing to do’: Trudeau apologizes for brownface

  • Time magazine posted the photo
  • Trudeausaid he should have known better

TORONTO: Canadian leader Justin Trudeau’s campaign was hit Wednesday by the publication of a yearbook photo showing him in brownface makeup at a 2001 costume party. The prime minister apologized and said “it was a dumb thing to do.”
Time magazine posted the photo, which it says was published in the yearbook from the West Point Grey Academy, a private school in British Columbia where Trudeau worked as a teacher before entering politics. It depicts the then 29-year-old Trudeau wearing a turban and robe, with dark makeup on his hands, face and neck.
Trudeau, who launched his reelection campaign exactly one week ago, said he should have known better.
“I’m pissed off at myself, I’m disappointed in myself,” Trudeau told reporters traveling with him on his campaign plane.
The Canadian prime minister is but the latest politician to face scrutiny over racially insensitive photos and actions from their younger days. Earlier this year, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam faced intense pressure to resign after a racist picture surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook page. He denied being in the picture but admitted wearing blackface as a young man while portraying Michael Jackson at a dance party in the 1980s. Since then, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has acknowledged wearing blackface in college, and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has publicly apologized for donning blackface during a college skit more than 50 years ago. None has resigned.
The photo of Trudeau was taken at the school’s annual dinner, which had an “Arabian Nights” theme that year, Trudeau said, adding that he was dressed as a character from “Aladdin.” The prime minister said it was not the first time he has painted his face; once, he said, he performed a version of Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” during a talent show.
“I should have known better then but I didn’t, and I am deeply sorry for it,” Trudeau said. “I’m going to ask Canadians to forgive me for what I did. I shouldn’t have done that. I take responsibility for it. It was a dumb thing to do.”
He said he has always been more enthusiastic about costumes than is “sometimes appropriate.”
“These are the situations I regret deeply,” Trudeau added.
The prime minister, who champions diversity and multiculturalism, said he didn’t consider it racist at the time but said society knows better now.
The photo’s publication could spell more trouble for Trudeau, who polls say is facing a serious challenge from Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
Trudeau has been admired by liberals around the world for his progressive policies in the Trump era, with Canada accepting more refugees than the United States. His Liberal government has also strongly advocated free trade and legalized cannabis nationwide.
But the 47-year-old son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was already vulnerable following one of the biggest scandals in Canadian political history, which arose when Trudeau’s former attorney general said he improperly pressured her to halt the criminal prosecution of a company in Quebec. Trudeau has said he was standing up for jobs, but the scandal rocked the government and led to multiple resignations earlier this year, causing a drop in the leader’s poll ratings.
Following the release of the brownface photo, Trudeau said he would talk to his kids in the morning about taking responsibility.
His quick apology did not stem the criticism from political opponents, who took the prime minister to task for what they said was troubling behavior.
“It is insulting. Any time we hear examples of brownface or blackface it’s making a mockery of someone for what they live, for what their lived experiences are. I think he has to answer for it,” said Leftist New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, a Sikh who wears a turban and the first visible minority to lead a national party.
Scheer, the opposition Conservative leader, said brownface was racist in 2001 and is racist in 2019.
“What Canadians saw this evening was someone with a complete lack of judgment and integrity and someone who is not fit to govern this country,” Scheer said.
Robert Bothwell, a professor of Canadian history and international relations at the University of Toronto, said he was “gobsmacked” at the development and wondered how it would land in Parliament.
“We’ll just have to see how the party reacts,” he said. “I’m very curious to know how Liberal members of Parliament that are black will react.”
How the scandal will affect Trudeau’s campaign remains in question. Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, said he didn’t think the photo’s release would cause people to vote differently. Wiseman said race and blackface play a much bigger role in US politics than in Canada.
“I don’t think this will swing the vote, although the story will get a lot of media play for a couple of days,” Wiseman said. “The Liberals may very well lose the election — they almost certainly will not do as well as in 2015 — but this is not the type of scandal that will drive voters to the Conservatives.”