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he conflict in Libya arose out of protests beginning February 15, 2011, in the eastern city of Benghazi. The protest came as part of a wider protest movement, popularly referred to as the Arab Spring, that spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The Arab Spring came to affect Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Algeria, Iran, Sudan, Oman, Yemen, Morocco and Jordan, among others.

In Libya, several hundred protesters rallied in opposition to the arrest of a prominent human rights activist. Security forces initially broke up these protests, but over the following week the demonstrations escalated into an uprising aimed at removing the government of Muammar Gaddafi from power. Gaddafi had ruled the country as the "Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution" since the 1969 overthrow of the monarchy. On February 23, 2011, Benghazifell under the control of protesters after the defection of prominent military officers stationed in the city. In a bid to end the unrest, Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam gave a televised address in which he announced the government would consider adopting a constitution, but warned of civil war if the protests continued. Shortly after, 230 protester deaths were reported, prompting the UN to accuse the Libyan government of committing crimes against humanity. The UN Human Rights Council soon followed suit in condemning the actions of Gaddafi's government and later acting to suspend Libya from the body, as Libyan diplomats and government officials began to defect from Gaddafi's government over continuing violence against the protesters. JURIST Guest Columnist Gabor Rona of Human Rights First has applauded these efforts by the international community.

Following the defections, Gaddafi's former justice minister, Mustafa Mohamed Abud Al Jeleil, announced the formation of the National Transitional Council (NTC), originally based in Benghazi, as an interim government aimed at ousting Gaddafi from power. In February 2011 and early March 2011, the opposition movement expanded, taking more cities throughout Libya and gaining support through military and tribal defections as the international community contemplated military intervention to prevent attacks on civilian protesters.

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