Where are the Ramadan brothers?
As I've said before when blogging on these pages, the emotional upheaval of dealing with the fact that a loved one has disappeared must be horrendous.
Really horrendous. I usually find even those clips of distraught family members making televised appeals for information almost too painful to watch. Painful, but of course also necessary. At least the police are usually there to back up the anguished relatives. The clear message is: we're all trying to get to the bottom of this. Please help.
It's similar – but also significantly different – when people are "disappeared" by the authorities. Similar because relatives suffer the same crippling anguish. But different because it's the very people who should be helping (police, security officials) who might be the guilty ones.
This is what makes these kinds of disappearances (a "forced disappearance" in human rights parlance) so appalling. A case in point is the mysterious affair of four men (two of whom are British: 39-year-old Zeyad Ramadan and his 40-year-old brother Ghazi, both born in Leeds) whose plight has just come to Amnesty's attention. The four men are computer software businessmen (in fact one, a Libyan called Khalid Elhasumi, is the Libyan manager for Microsoft according to TechEYE.net). At 8pm on 19 March the front door of their house in Tripoli was broken down by security officials and they were taken away. That's the last time they were seen in public. Read more here (it's good to see the Yorkshire media reporting the case by the way).
I spoke to Zeyad’s wife Asma on the phone yesterday. She sounded calm given the circumstances but she's also clearly desperate to get news of her husband and her brother-in-law. To make matters worse Zeyad is diabetic and needs regular medication. No-one knows whether he's getting it, or even where he and the others are and whether they're going to be charged with anything. You can support Amnesty's appeal for the men here.
It’s bad enough that someone is missing; doubly so when the authorities might be behind it; and absolutely terrifying if this is all happening against a backdrop of a country at war and in crisis. In the past weeks dozens of people have been apprehended by the Libyan government's security forces. Most are still unaccounted for. A few, like Iman al-Obeidi, are now free (though even her freedom of movement is curtailed: an updated Amnesty appeal for Iman is here).
To use the old cliche, with disappearances it’s the not knowing that’s the worst. And for relatives matters are often complicated by officials denying all knowledge and passing the buck. Right now though the situation is straightforward enough and it all boils down to one question the Libyan authorities should answer: where are the Ramadan brothers?
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