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More Mass Graves, Atrocities Against Gadhafi Loyalists Found in Libya

Refugees from Libya line up for food at a transit camp near Tunisia (photo: United Nations Photo)

I continued to be infuriated by the invocation of the summary execution of Moammar Gadhafi as a “foreign policy success” for the Obama Administration. Among the other reasons, it was pretty clear that the Libyan rebels and their allies didn’t solely execute Gadhafi and treat all their other perceived adversaries with dignity and respect. And I think over the next several months, stories like this will become more and more familiar.

The bodies of 53 Gaddafi loyalists have been found at a hotel in the Libyan city of Sirte after apparently being executed, a human rights group says.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the victims – some of whom had their hands bound – died about a week ago.

It is the latest accusation of atrocities in Libya committed by both sides during the eight-month conflict.

Libya’s new rulers have denied any involvement in abuses and have urged Libyans to forego reprisal attacks.

The leadership is probably not directly involved in these kinds of atrocities, but they surely have shown little ability to control them. This is not the first evidence we have. Amnesty International wrote a long report about detainee abuse in Libya, including the detention without trial of innocents who happen to have a dark skin color (the assumption being that black Africans were foreign collaborators with Gadhafi). Again, the TransNational Council, (TNC) Libya’s interim government, was not targeted as the main perpetrator of the abuses, but they failed to oversee the forces doing the illegal detentions, beatings and murder. And there have been other reports of mass graves in Sirte, even before the liberation.

Just the fact that Gadhafi’s body lay in cold storage in a meat store in Misrata as a public display is evidence that the interim Libyan government doesn’t have a deep interest in human rights. Outside of a few appeals, the government is doing almost nothing to stop reprisals against Gadhafi loyalists that have clearly resulted in these kinds of atrocities. Replacing a brutal government with a government that turns a blind eye to brutality doesn’t really count as a success, in my book.

The new Libya will not exactly be a beacon for women’s rights, either:

Mr Abdul Jalil said the new Libya would take Islamic law as its foundation. Interest for bank loans would be capped, he said, and restrictions on the number of wives Libyan men could take would be lifted.

[cont’d]
The President, in his remarks on the death of Gadhafi, appealed to the Libyan people to respect the human rights of all their fellow citizens. Somehow, if there’s money to be made, I don’t think this will be a huge obstacle for the country as a whole. Maybe there will be a new tyrant that some Senator can spend an interesting night with.

The point here is that it’s way too early in Libya’s transition to be shouting about victories. Especially with the evidence that is coming out.

UPDATE: The other dangerous thing about the “successful” action in Libya is that it spurs warmongers to press to repeat that success:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) Sunday called on the United States to consider military action in Syria, where president Bashir al-Assad’s regime has used violence against anti-government protesters seeking democratic reforms.

“Now that military operations in Libya are ending, there will be renewed focus on what practical military options might be considered to protect civilian lives in Syria,” said McCain, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Jordan.

“The Assad regime has spilled too much blood to stay in power. Its days are numbered, but it will use those days to murder more of its own people,” he said. “In this way, there is no moral distinction whatsoever between the case of Syria and that of Libya. The question is, what can be done about it?”

CommunityThe Bullpen

More Mass Graves, Atrocities Against Gadhafi Loyalists Found in Libya

I continued to be infuriated by the invocation of the summary execution of Moammar Gadhafi as a “foreign policy success” for the Obama Administration. Among the other reasons, it was pretty clear that the Libyan rebels and their allies didn’t solely execute Gadhafi and treat all their other perceived adversaries with dignity and respect. And I think over the next several months, stories like this will become more and more familiar.

The bodies of 53 Gaddafi loyalists have been found at a hotel in the Libyan city of Sirte after apparently being executed, a human rights group says.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the victims – some of whom had their hands bound – died about a week ago.

It is the latest accusation of atrocities in Libya committed by both sides during the eight-month conflict.

Libya’s new rulers have denied any involvement in abuses and have urged Libyans to forego reprisal attacks.

The leadership is probably not directly involved in these kinds of atrocities, but they surely have shown little ability to control them. This is not the first evidence we have. Amnesty International wrote a long report about detainee abuse in Libya, including the detention without trial of innocents who happen to have a dark skin color (the assumption being that black Africans were foreign collaborators with Gadhafi). Again, the TransNational Council, (TNC) Libya’s interim government, was not targeted as the main perpetrator of the abuses, but they failed to oversee the forces doing the illegal detentions, beatings and murder. And there have been other reports of mass graves in Sirte, even before the liberation.

Just the fact that Gadhafi’s body lay in cold storage in a meat store in Misrata as a public display is evidence that the interim Libyan government doesn’t have a deep interest in human rights. Outside of a few appeals, the government is doing almost nothing to stop reprisals against Gadhafi loyalists that have clearly resulted in these kinds of atrocities. Replacing a brutal government with a government that turns a blind eye to brutality doesn’t really count as a success, in my book.

The new Libya will not exactly be a beacon for women’s rights, either:

Mr Abdul Jalil said the new Libya would take Islamic law as its foundation. Interest for bank loans would be capped, he said, and restrictions on the number of wives Libyan men could take would be lifted.

The President, in his remarks on the death of Gadhafi, appealed to the Libyan people to respect the human rights of all their fellow citizens. Somehow, if there’s money to be made, I don’t think this will be a huge obstacle for the country as a whole. Maybe there will be a new tyrant that some Senator can spend an interesting night with.

The point here is that it’s way too early in Libya’s transition to be shouting about victories. Especially with the evidence that is coming out.

UPDATE: The other dangerous thing about the “successful” action in Libya is that it spurs warmongers to press to repeat that success:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) Sunday called on the United States to consider military action in Syria, where president Bashir al-Assad’s regime has used violence against anti-government protesters seeking democratic reforms.

“Now that military operations in Libya are ending, there will be renewed focus on what practical military options might be considered to protect civilian lives in Syria,” said McCain, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Jordan.

“The Assad regime has spilled too much blood to stay in power. Its days are numbered, but it will use those days to murder more of its own people,” he said. “In this way, there is no moral distinction whatsoever between the case of Syria and that of Libya. The question is, what can be done about it?”

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David Dayen

David Dayen