Muammar Gaddafi was born on 19 June 1942 into a family that belonged to a small tribe of Arab Berbers in the desert near Sirte, Libya. In his youth he admired Egyptian leader and Arab nationalist Gamal Abdel Nasser. Gaddafi has two wives and eight children.
In 1961 Gaddafi entered the Libyan Military Academy in Benghazi where he met most of his future comrades-in-arms from the Revolutionary Command Council. He received further military training in the United Kingdom and Greece.
On 1 September 1969 he organized a bloodless military coup d’etat and managed to topple King Idris I who was on a state visit to Turkey. Gaddafi established the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and gave himself to the rank of Colonel to emphasize that Libyan society is ruled by the people and that there was no need for him to carry a grandiose title.
Since the revolution, Gaddafi established a system of authoritarian rule based on his own political philosophy as set forth in the “Green Book” which included the prohibition of a multi-party system, restrictions on dissidence and even the policy of killing opposition leaders. Gaddafi also openly financed international terrorism but has subsequently admitted responsibility for a series of terrorist attacks, including the 1986 bombing in a Berlin club, the Lockerbie bombing and UTA Flight 772. Gaddafi is widely considered to be a dictator.
The year 1999 was marked by the case of foreign doctors who were held responsible for infecting 438 Libyan children with AIDS. Five Bulgarian medics and one Palestinian were imprisoned and at first condemned to death. They spent eight years in prison (from February 1999 until July 2007) where they were repeatedly tortured. The nurses have complained of severe torture during police interrogation, saying they were jolted with electricity, beaten with sticks and repeatedly jumped on while strapped to their beds. Two of the women said they were raped. In 2007, thanks to the intervention of French government the doctors were extradited to Bulgaria and pardoned upon their arrival in Sofia.
In December 2007 Ashraf Joumaa al-Hajouj, the Palestinian doctor, filed a complaint with the help of the French organisation «Avocats Sans Frontières» against Muammar Gaddafi, five policemen and a Libyan doctor. The International Convention against Torture of 1984, which was ratified by France, established the principle of universal jurisdiction for prosecution of torture and hence provides France with the jurisdiction to prosecute torture complaints from other countries.
Gaddafi technically benefits from criminal immunity normally granted to heads of state. However, this reasoning may be rejected due to the fact that Gaddafi did not assume the title of Head of State, using only the classification of “Guide”. The lawsuit was, however, suspended because the Libyan authorities refused to provide information that had been requested concerning the police officers.
On 15 February 2011 a series of protests and confrontations in Libya began that led to a large popular uprising. Within a week, it spread across the country, including its capital Tripoli. Gaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, addressed Libyans on State television and warned the protestors that their country could descend into civil war.
Gaddafi responded with a military crackdown on protestors and civilians, and recruited foreign mercenaries to supplement his forces since the Eastern part of the country was falling under control of the rebel forces and parts of the military had defected. By the end of February the rebels had formed a government called the National Transitional Council based in Benghazi. According to information from human rights groups, Gaddafi’s forces are responsible for alleged killings in Tripoli, where 228 or more people died in air strikes; for bombings in Benghazi where some 257 people were allegedly killed; and for air strikes and attacks by security forces in the towns of Misrata, Brega, Derna, Zenten and Ajdabiya which were allegedly responsible for at least 40 deaths.
The U.N. Security Council, in a unanimous decision on 26 February 2011, instructed the International Criminal Court to conduct investigations into the Libyan crisis that was described as “widespread and systematic attacks currently taking place against the civilian population [which] may amount to crimes against humanity”. The United Nations Security Council also passed a resolution freezing the assets of Gaddafi and ten members of his inner circle and restricting their travel.