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Libyan rebels tarnished by human rights report

An Amnesty International report released today said Libyan rebels 'committed abuses' amounting to 'war crimes,' raising fresh concerns about post-conflict justice in Libya.

By Staff writer / September 13, 2011

An anti-Gaddafi fighter walks at a checkpoint north of the besieged city of Bani Walid September 13.

Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

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Tripoli, Libya

While pro-Qaddafi forces carried out numerous atrocities throughout Libya's civil war, rebel groups are also to blame for serious human rights abuses, according to Amnesty International.

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An Amnesty International report on the six-month civil war in Libya has highlighted abuse on both sides of the conflict, and says the National Transitional Council must act quickly to establish a proper judicial system.

In a report released today, it blames Muammar Qaddafi loyalists with extrajudicial killings and widespread torture, but says rebels “also committed abuses that in some cases amounted to war crimes.”

The report not only illustrates the degree of violence and desperation in Libya during the fighting, but also raises fresh concerns about the ability the National Transitional Council (NTC) to reconcile with figures from the Qaddafi regime and oversee a peaceful transition of power. Since the fall of the capital on Aug. 21, the NTC has struggled to establish civilian control in Tripoli and across the country.

The report not only illustrates the degree of violence and desperation in Libya during the fighting, with the bulk of war crimes committed by the now-fallen regime. It also raises fresh concerns about the ability the National Transitional Council (NTC) to reconcile disparate anti-Qaddafi forces and oversee a peaceful transition of power. Since the fall of the capital on Aug. 21, the NTC has struggled to establish civilian control in Tripoli and across the country.

Stories of abuses committed during the fighting are now commonplace in Tripoli. In addition, many Libyans today also describe concerns about how violence can still be aimed at innocent suspects, despite the manifest goodwill toward anti-Qaddafi fighters on the streets.

The most severe cases conducted by anti-Qaddafi forces include lynchings of soldiers when captured, especially in the early months of the revolution in eastern Libya when hit squads made their way through towns with target lists of Qaddafi loyalists.

“Whatever is happening between the [former] government forces and the rebels, there are lots of people who are sabotaging and misusing the situation, and are taking advantage for revenge on each other,” says a family member of non-Libyan man whose injuries at the hands of anti-Qaddafi forces have shocked the family and friends.

The man, who had worked for a former regime member who has since fled Libya, was handed over to pro-NTC fighters at a checkpoint. Relatives told the Monitor that he was subjected, for several hours, to electric shocks, severe beating, and threats that he would be killed if he did not confess to having weapons and his body would be thrown into the Mediterranean Sea where it would “never be found.”

The man was eventually saved when a rebel intervened and vouched for him. The suspected Qaddafi supporter received apologies from the local officer.

“They think that just because they have a gun, or they have contacts, they can have anyone picked up and torture them,” says this family member.

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