The deep roots of Libya's psychology of violence
For more than four decades, Libya's self-declared 'Brother Leader,' Muammar Qaddafi, has waged a brutal form of psychological warfare against his own people, analysts say. Rebel forces have also been shaped by that violent history.
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"My father didn’t kill anybody…. He didn’t say, ‘Go and kill innocent people,' " said Seif al-Islam, Qaddafi’s most influential son, when asked about the risks of criminal proceedings in a BBC interview broadcast on Tuesday.
The International Criminal Court has another view, says the Court's lead prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. He told Reuters this week that Libya explored ways to put down protests, after the events in Tunisia and Egypt.
“The evidence we have is that the shootings of civilians was a predetermined plan,” Mr. Moreno-Ocamps said. “The planning at the beginning was to use tear gas and [if that failed to work] … shooting.”
According to Mr. Islam, it was the rebels that committed crimes. “They hang people, they execute people,” he told the BBC. “You saw the picture of cutting the hands and the legs and head of one guy in front of the people. So do you think the Libyan people are barbarians, and wild and happy with that? Of course not.”
Added Qaddafi’s heir apparent: “Listen: God [is] with us, because this time we are fighting [for] the right cause.”
That perception of serving a higher purpose, among the Qaddafi family and their supporters, may in fact be adding fuel to the repressive drive against the rebels.
“[Qaddafi] thinks that he has created the ideal political system, and that’s what’s been introduced into Libya,” says Joffe of Cambridge University, about the tangle of ideas found in Qaddafi’s famous Green Book, which he has widely distributed throughout Libya since 1975 as a guide to his "democratic socialism" philosophy.
“Now when it is rejected by Libyans, in the rebellion in the east, this is more than just simply a political dispute – this is a personal rejection, which he takes very personally,” says Joffe. “And since he considers the system to be in some ways perfect … he takes this as a personal insult which he must personally avenge.”
But Libyan officials maintain that does not mean targeting civilians, regardless of their role in the uprising.