Lynchings of real or suspected Gaddafi fighters and supporters by rebels have happened throughout the war and have included racist lynchings and even beheadings of black Libyans and migrant workers. They may be continuing now they’ve taken Tripoli, even though NATO special forces and the CIA are on the ground with the rebels there.
Human Rights Watch reported in July that rebel forces lynched many black migrant workers as suspected mercenaries and dragged 20 Gaddafi officials from their homes and hung them in Al Baida, a town near Misrata (1). (Gaddafi’s forces are similarly reported to have continued to kill pro-rebel and anti-Gaddafi demonstrators.(2))
More recent reports from western journalists in Tripoli show the same is happening to black men found by rebel forces there, some of whom may have been fighting for Gaddafi, others probably just being migrant workers (The ICRC reports that Libyan hospitals have been understaffed since the fighting broke out as they were mainly staffed by migrant workers, many of whom have since fled (3)).
The Independent recently published the following from Kim Semgupta in Tripoli
‘At the Maghrabi Arab Village, built for expatriates working in the petroleum industry, two young black men squatted on the ground, terrified, their hands tied behind their backs, guns held to their heads. I was told by one of the rebels that they were Mohammed Salou Mohammed, and Zait Abidan Ali, from Chad. Both had confessed to being snipers working for Colonel Gaddafi. Did they really admit to that? The fighter, looking uncomfortable, insisted that was indeed the case. Zait Abidan Ali started to say they just worked at the place. He was kicked in the chest by a fat man in torn British Army fatigues who said he was a commander and ordered me to leave.
The repeated cases of men from sub-Saharan Africa being lynched by rebels on the pretext that they were regime mercenaries has been one of the most disturbing aspects of the revolution. My colleagues and I had witnessed some of these killings while with the rebel forces in eastern Libya. Human-rights groups had protested and the opposition administration, the Transitional National Council (TNC), had promised action. As the men were led away, another fighter, Nasr Al-Sabri, said: "I am sorry about this, but this is a difficult time and people are angry. We have lost people to snipers in the last few days. But I will try to make sure that these men are dealt with properly. This is unusual, you can see how glad the people of Tripoli are to see us."’ (4)
Racist killings of black people - both migrant workers black Libyans - have been common in Libya for a long time. In 2000 Libyans attacked migrant workers on a large scale, killing at least 135 of them (5).
Rebels from the Shabab rebel youth movement also told Semgupta that “We shall hang all of them together when we catch him.” (them meaning either Gaddafi and his sons or possibly all Gaddafi supporters, as happened in Al Baida). When Semgupta pointed out that there was no death penalty by law in Libya the rebel answered “there is man’s law and then there is God’s law” suggesting summary execution under some rebels’ interpretation of Sharia law (6).
The fact that the rebels include many defectors from the regime might mean their influence reduces revenge killings of real and suspected Gaddafi supporters or it might not.
We know for certain that NATO has CIA along with British SAS and other intelligence agents and military special forces advising and training the rebels and identifying targets for airstrikes, along with Egyptian as well as Qatari and UAE special forces who may even be fighting (as they will look Arab or Libyan to foreign journalists) (7) – (14).
Historically from Nicaragua to Afghanistan such “advisers” have often fought in combat or given the orders to native units they were commanding in reality. That – and NATO airstrikes supporting rebel forces during combat - mean NATO governments and militaries are so heavily involved in the ground war that they have a responsibility to ensure the rebels do not continue to summarily execute real or suspected Gaddafi supporters.
In Afghanistan, as in Iraq, the US frequently operates units of native paramilitary special forces or militias trained and led by American officers, who carry out summary executions in night raids. This allows them to say that “the trigger pullers” were not American. (15) ( also see this blog post – scrolling down to sub-heading ‘Night Raids , the El Salvador Option from Iraq to Afghanistan and Bagram as the new Guantanamo’ – for sources scroll down to Sources under same sub-heading lower down the post. Some links to Times articles may not work since the Times has introduced payments system. )
Using mercenaries (euphemistically termed ‘private security contractors’) who are former special forces from their own militaries to train and give orders from a higher level to UAE, Qatari and Egyptian special forces leading units of Libyan rebels, may be giving NATO three levels of ‘plausible deniability’ on their involvement on the ground in Libya (16) – (18).
NATO governments have tried to pretend that the only threat to civilians comes from Gaddafi’s forces, but NATO airstrikes and rebel lynchings are killing civilians and prisoners of war too.
Of course NATO can't have complete control over rebel forces who have sometimes ignored the orders of their own leaders, but they could try to use their influence.
(1) = Independent 16 Jul 2011 ‘Opposition fighters are losing battles – but winning the war’,http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/opposition-fighters-are-losing-battles-ndash-but-winning-the-war-2314575.html ; After the uprising there were repeated instances of lynchings of black men. The excuse at the time was that the men were mercenaries hired by Colonel Gaddafi. But many were innocent migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa. Extra-judicial killings of regime officials also followed the revolution. At al-Baida, near Tobruk, for instance, 20 officials were dragged from their homes and hanged….The cases of abuse had been listed belatedly in a report published by Human Rights Watch. But no one has been investigated or prosecuted in opposition-held areas. And members of the provisional administration admit this is extremely unlikely to happen. There has been no demand from Western countries for an inquiry.
(2) = HRW 18 Aug 2011 ‘Libya: 10 Protesters Apparently Executed’,http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/08/18/libya-10-protesters-apparently-executed ; Libyan government forces appear to have executed 10 protesters following an anti-government demonstration in the town of Bani Walid on May 28, 2011
(3) = Reuters 10 Aug 2011 ‘Hospitals, medical staff targeted in wars, ICRC says’,http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/10/us-violence-idUSTRE7791F620110810
(4) = Independent 23 Aug 2011 ‘'He called us rats, but he is the one hiding. We shall hang them all together…'’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/he-called-us-rats-but-he-is-the-one-hiding-we-shall-hang-them-all-together-2342147.html
(5) = Independent 24 Feb 2011 ‘Is Al-Jazeera TV complicit in the latest vilification of Libya’s Blacks?’, http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2011/02/24/is-al-jazeerah-tv-complicit-in-the-latest-vilification-of-libyas-blacks/ ; ‘In 2000 about 5,200 Ghanaians fled Libya after racist violence against blacks that left more than 135 dead and many more seriously injured. George Auther, one of the victims, was quoted as saying, “The problem is, the Libyans don’t like blacks.”……….There have since been many reported cases of racist violence against black Africans in Libya. On 16 February 2010 the UN Human Rights Council issued a written statement asking Libya to “end its practices of racial discrimination against black Africans, particularly its racial persecution of two million black African migrant workers.”
(6) = See (4) above
(7) = BBC News 06 Mar 2011 ‘Libya unrest: SAS members 'captured near Benghazi'’,http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-12658054
(8) = NYT 30 Mar 2011 ‘C.I.A. Agents in Libya Aid Airstrikes and Meet Rebels’,http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/world/africa/31intel.html
(9) = Guardian 31 Mar 2011 ‘Libya: SAS veterans helping Nato identify Gaddafi targets in Misrata’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/31/libya-sas-veterans-misrata-rebels ; Former SAS soldiers and other western employees of private security companies are helping Nato identify targets in the Libyan port city of Misrata, the scene of heavy fighting between Muammar Gaddafi's forces and rebels, well-placed sources have told the Guardian.
(10) = Al Jazeera 03 Apr 2011 ‘Libyan rebels 'receive foreign training'’,http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2011/04/201142172443133798.html ; US and Egyptian special forces have reportedly been providing covert training to rebel fighters in the battle for Libya, Al Jazeera has been told….An unnamed rebel source related how he had undergone training in military techniques at a "secret facility" in eastern Libya.
(11) = Bloomberg Businessweek 03 Apr 2011 ‘NATO Escalates Libya Campaign After Rebels Criticize Mission’,http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-04-06/nato-escalates-libya-campaign-after-rebels-criticize-mission.html
(12) = Washington Post 22 Aug 2011 ‘Allies guided rebel ‘pincer’ assault on Tripoli’,http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/allies-guided-rebel-pincer-assault-on-tripoli/2011/08/22/gIQAeAMaWJ_story.html; British, French and Qatari Special Forces have been operating on the ground in Libya for some time and helped the rebels develop and coordinate the pincer strategy, officials said. At the same time, CIA operatives inside the country — along with intercepted communications between Libyan government officials — provided a deeper understanding of how badly Gaddafi’s command structure had crumbled, according to U.S. officials.
(13) = Independent 23 Aug 2011 ‘Rebels claim the victory – but did the Brits win it?’,http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/rebels-claim-the-victory-ndash-but-did-the-brits-win-it-2342152.html
(14) = Guardian.co.uk 23 Aug 2011 ‘Libya: battle for Tripoli – live blog – 5.50pm’,http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/middle-east-live/2011/aug/23/libya-battle-for-tripoli-live-blog#block-11 ; ‘Defence expert Robert Fox is telling the BBC special forces from Qatar and the UAE, with US, British and French training, are responsible for the successful attack on Tripoli. "It has been a genuine Arab coalition ... I think it was the Qataris that led them through the breach." He said William Hague was "dissembling" in his comments just now.’
(15) = Times 26 Feb 2010 ‘Hunt down the spy behind deaths of our children, say Afghan night raid survivors’,http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/asia/afghanistan/article1843938.ece
(16) = Guardian 23 Aug 2011 ‘SAS troopers help co-ordinate rebel attacks in Libya’, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/23/sas-troopers-help-coordinate-rebels
(17) = See (10) above
(18) = See (14) above