The Arab League suspended the participation of Libya in its council meetings, citing the North African government’s crackdown on protesters.
The Arab League “condemns crimes against the current peaceful popular protests and demonstrations in several Libyan cities,” Secretary General Amr Moussa told reporters in Cairo today after the group met. He said the security forces’ use of live rounds, heavy weapons and foreign mercenaries is a “grave breach of human rights.”
The organization calls for “respecting Libyans’ right to freedom of protest and expression” as they demand democratic change, he said. Humanitarian aid must be allowed into the country, the Arab League leader said.
Libya will be barred from taking part in the Arab League’s meetings until leader Muammar Qaddafi responds to the organization’s demands, Moussa said.
Qaddafi’s crackdown on a weeklong uprising has already left more than 200 dead, according to Human Rights Watch, and driven oil prices to a 2 1/2-year high. In Benghazi, the independence flag of the constitutional monarchy overthrown by Qaddafi in 1969 flew on streets and over several buildings and there were no security forces in evidence except traffic police, witnesses said. In Tripoli, bodies are still in the streets after an attack on protesters by pro-Qaddafi gunmen, the opposition National Front for the Salvation of Libya said.
Libya, holder of Africa’s largest oil reserves, is the latest nation to be rocked by protests ignited by last month’s ouster of Tunisia’s president and fanned by the Feb. 11 fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak . While violent unrest has also spread to Bahrain, Iran and Yemen, none of those regimes has used as much force to quell protesters as Libya.