In case anyone else hasn’t seen it yet there’s an article in the Independent newspaper quoting Amnesty International investigators saying they’ve found no evidence to support the Libyan rebels’ claims that Gaddafi ordered his troops to rape women and that much of the rebels’ supposed evidence for it was manufactured, along with some of their other claims.
Rebel claims that Gaddafi was using black African mercenaries have also been found false by Amnesty, with those ‘mercenaries’ shown to journalists by the rebels being migrant workers. Some black migrant workers in Benghazi were murdered as a result of the rumours.
Amnesty’s investigation also found it’s possible some of the protesters killed by Gaddafi’s forces in Benghazi and Baidi at the start of the uprising may have been armed (though they’re not certain of this) and that there was no evidence of anti-aircraft weapons being used against the protesters, only kalashnikovs (that last one isn’t a big difference but is more evidence that the rebels’ claims include at least as much propaganda as Gaddafi’s claims do)
It also makes me even more certain that US Defence Secretary Robert Gates’ claim that Gaddafi’s people are killing people and then moving the bodies about from one place to another to pretend they were all killed in NATO air strikes is recycled propaganda similar to that he used (and later admitted was false) in relation to the Taliban and US air strikes in Afghanistan.
I don’t doubt Gaddafi is involved in some propaganda too. It seems highly unlikely that all the rebels are Al Qa’ida, as he claims they are ; and one member of a hospital’s staff gave journalists a note saying that a baby who Gaddafi’s spokesmen said had been injured by a NATO air strike was actually hurt in a car crash.
NATO has admitted it was responsible for other air strikes attempting to assassinate Gaddafi and members of his government and military by airstrike – and in those cases children were, very predictably, killed.
We should beware of claims about the war in Libya made by Gaddafi’s people, the rebels and NATO government and military spokespeople unless corroborated by journalists (doing more than just repeating them) or human rights groups. None of them are all that reliable – and even Amnesty has sometimes been fooled for a few months till it got to investigate further on the ground, though not often.
Of course this doesn't mean Gaddafi and his forces haven't committed any war crimes against civilians. For instance Amnesty has reported Grad rocket attacks by his forces on Misratah from April through to this month by his forces, which is indiscriminate fire which they know will kill civilians whether they're aiming to hit rebels or not - and Amnesty also reported evidence of sniper fire on civilians in Misrata in April (3) – (4).
(1) = Independent 24 Jun 2011 ‘Amnesty questions claim that Gaddafi ordered rape as weapon of war’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/amnesty-questions-claim-that-gaddafi-ordered-rape-as-weapon-of-war-2302037.html
(2) = Channel 4 News (UK) 09 Jun 2011 ‘Gaddafi ordered rape attacks as weapon of war- ICC’, http://www.channel4.com/news/gaddafi-ordered-rape-attacks-as-tactic-of-war-icc
(3) Amnesty International 05 May 2011 ‘Libya: Attacks against Misratah residents point to war crimes’,http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/report/libya-attacks-against-misratah-residents-point-war-crimes-2011-05-05
(4) = Amnesty International 23 Jun 2011 ‘Libya: Renewed rocket attacks target civilians in Misratah’,http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/libya-renewed-rocket-attacks-target-civilians-misratah-2011-06-23