Daniel Kawczynski is MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham and chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Libya Group.
One of the most moving experiences of my time as a Member of Parliament has been spending the afternoon at the British War Cemetery in Tripoli, which has been immaculately maintained by the British War Commission. This small green oasis in the heart of a dusty ramshackle suburb of Tripoli contains the remains of hundreds and hundreds of British soldiers who died fighting against fascism and for the liberation of North Africa.
As I walked from grave to grave, row by row, what struck me was how extraordinarily young so many of these soldiers were when they were cut down. So many in their early twenties with their whole lives ahead of them sacrificed their lives in a country many people knew nothing about and cared very little for.
Together with my fellow MPs, I placed a wreath on the large cross in the middle of the cemetery and paused for a few minutes to remember their courage and to appreciate in our minds the freedom that we have today as a result of their sacrifice.
This is relevant today when we see again killing on a mass scale through Libya. I am shocked and appalled by the levels of violence unleashed by the Libyan government.
I am very pleased that the evacuation of British Nationals has started and clearly the priority for every government would be in the first instance to secure the safe passage of its nationals to safety. I believe the Prime Minister, with this in mind, has been very conscious of not inflaming the situation. Once that operation has been successfully carried out we will have to turn our minds quickly to ending the unacceptable violence in Libya. It is vital that the international community increases the pressure and sends a united message that there will be a day of reckoning for any atrocities and abuses that are committed, so the violence ends.
I am extremely pleased that the Arab League has suspended Libya from the organisation; pleased the EU has stopped trade negotiations; and pleased that the UN is strongly condemning the Gaddafi regime. All of these things are positive steps and will put further pressure on Gaddafi. The Government has also been very active on every diplomatic front to address the deepening crisis, bringing about the statement of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, and finding the signatures for a special meeting of the UN Human Rights Council.
The Government should consider the full range of measures at its disposal, bilaterally and with international partners – including the UK’s friends in the Arab League, at the EU, with the US and other partners and at the UN.
When I visited Libya, ordinary people in the street were fearful of talking to me. The UK must stand 100 per cent behind the Libyan people and their right to express their views free from the threat of assassination, beatings, rape and intimidation. At a time of cautious optimism in other parts of theMiddle East, Gaddafi’s brutality has made him a pariah once more.
My book, Seeking Gaddafi, chronicles the human rights abuses and massacres that have taken place in Libya over the last four decades. Gaddafi has managed to carry out these human rights abuses up until now because the world’s media were not as focused on Libya as they are now, following the Arab uprising throughout the region. This is our opportunity to help the Libyan people, and we must send the message that all options are on the table to make the country safe and stop the violence.