Libya rebels commit ‘war crimes’

19 Sep 2011
Windhoek - Amnesty International says investigations in Libya have uncovered evidence that rebel forces have committed gross human rights abuses, some amounting to war crimes.The UK-based human rights group also reveals that the Western media deliberately ignored or covered up the widespread atrocities.In the report released on Tuesday, Amnesty accuses the rebels of unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests and widespread torture of civillians, mostly black foreigners.“Members and supporters of the opposition, loosely structured under the leadership of the National Transitional Council (NTC), based throughout the conflict in Benghazi, have also committed human rights abuses, in some cases amounting to war crimes,” Amnesty says.The report also confirms widely-held concerns about the NTC’s ability to unite the country and oversee a peaceful transition.The NTC is struggling to establish civillian control in Tripoli and other parts of the country.Many attacks have focused on blacks, who are suspected of being sympathetic to ousted strongman Muammar Gaddafi.It is believed they are also being killed because of the colour of their skin.“Angry groups of supporters of the ’17 February Revolution’ shot, hanged and otherwise killed through lynching dozens of captured soldiers and suspected foreign ‘mercenaries’-and did so with total impunity. “Sub-Saharan African (blacks) nationals continued to be attacked on what have proved to be largely unfounded suspicions that they were ‘mercenaries’ hired by Col Gaddafi,” Amnesty International says.The report is based on a fact-finding mission to Libya between February 26 and May 28.The report says the European Union and the United Nations could have done better to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.Gaddafi’s government accused NATO of killing up to 800 civilians.Amnesty says both the NTC and Gaddafi’s forces are to blame.“Opposition fighters and supporters have abducted, arbitrarily detained, tortured and killed former members of the security forces, suspected Gaddafi loyalists, captured soldiers and foreign nationals wrong suspected of being mercenaries fighting on behalf of Gaddafi forces.”Claims by the NTC that Gaddafi used “mercenaries” are unfounded.There are no mechanisms in place to hold anybody accountable for atrocities, the rights body’s report says.It cited incidents in several towns under rebel control where soldiers, some in uniform, were executed with their hands tied behind their backs.Amnesty says amateur video footage in its possession shows lynching of suspected “mercenaries” outside the Benghazi North Court and other areas “with crowds cheering and filming the gruesome scenes on their mobile phones”.The “lynching and unlawful killings” are perpetrated by organized groups who operate freely, openly and with impunity”.The majority of the 2.5 million-plus foreigners - mostly from Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan - suffered untold fates under the hands of Libya’s “liberators”.“Widespread, but largely unfounded reports that Gaddafi forces were relying on Sub-Saharan African mercenaries to fight the opposition put them at heightened risk in areas that fell under the control of the NTC.“Racist and xenophobic rhetoric, already frequent before the unrest, increased as a result of the breakdown of law and order. “The allegations about the use of mercenaries proved to be largely unfounded,” Amnesty says.Sub-Saharan Africans who escaped into Egypt from opposition-controlled territories in eastern Libya told Amnesty they witnessed killings and other violent attacks against anyone with black skin.The easy availability of weapons and the security vacuum created by the withdrawal of police has worsened the vulnerability of blacks.The NTC has failed to denounce the myth of “African mercenaries” and to hold to account perpetrators of the attacks.“It seems that the most brutal treatment was reserved for those with dark skin – whether Libyan or foreign,” Amnesty International says.