No evidence of Libya Viagra rape claims. But war crimes? Plenty.
The stunning but unproven claim that Libya's Muammar Qaddafi gave Viagra to his forces and ordered them to rape obscures a series of war crimes by his forces.
Allegations that Muammar Qaddafi ordered the mass rape of women and passed out Viagra to his troops to give them more zeal for the task have been widely cited – most recently by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC).Skip to next paragraph
The Arab League observer mission in Syria is likely to fail
Egypt's military rulers crack down on democracy groups
Iran's threats over Strait of Hormuz? Understandable, but not easy
Eastern Libya poll indicates political Islam will closely follow democracy
Iraq's Maliki threatens, Sunnis grumble, and Baghdad goes boom
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But independent researchers who have sought to corroborate the claim in Libya now say they have found no evidence to back it whatsoever.
Donatella Rovera, a senior researcher for Amnesty International, spent three months in Libya this spring and has contributed to a string of reports that show Mr. Qaddafi's forces have engaged in a series of war crimes.
Qaddafi's forces have indiscriminately fired missiles into civilian neighborhoods, dropped cluster bombs on them, and laid antipersonnel mines in areas filled with civilian foot traffic, all against the laws of war. Hundreds of Libyans, at least, have disappeared at the hands of Qaddafi's government since the uprising began. And Qaddafi has a well-documented history since he seized power in 1969 of using torture to suppress dissent.
But despite Amnesty's extensive efforts – and pressure from donors and foreign governments – to verify the claims of mass rape, the organization has come up short.
"We have not spoken to any victims or anybody who has met victims, except for the one doctor who has spoken a lot to the media," says Ms. Rovera. "We approached her to see if there was anything more to learn from her, on this particular issue; she couldn't put us in touch with any victims."
Rape has undoubtedly been carried out by Qaddafi's troops in this war – judging by the history of conflict across the globe.
But war is filled with propaganda and outrageous claims made in the best of faith by stressed populations who, driven by fear and anxiety, readily believe the worst of those on the other side of the conflict. Rumors take on a life of their own, and the claim that Qaddafi was ordering mass rape, with the sinister Viagra detail, was almost tailor-made to capture the imagination of a frightened public.
In the case of a man like Qaddafi, his violent reputation proceeds him, making it easier to believe the worst as rebels and NATO members continue to maintain support for the uprising.