By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
TRIPOLI, Libya — More than 100 militia brigades from the city of Misrata have been operating outside of any official duty since Tripoli fell in August. Members of these militias have reportedly engaged in torture, aggressively pursued enemies all over the country, and detained and shot individuals being held in detention.
Currently, these militias are preventing the entire displaced town of Tawergha from returning home. They believe that this city was sympathetic to Qaddafi and provided him avid support.
Now that the war in Libya has come to an end there are calls for accountability and reconciliation. Groups such as the Misrata militias are showing how difficult this will be.
In western Libya, anti-Qaddafi militias have looted and burned the homes and schools of tribes that supported the deposed dictator.
Other militias from around Zuwara have been looting property as compensation, which they feel they deserve for damages suffered during the war.
The recent execution of the 53 pro-Qaddafi supporters at a hotel in Sirte was apparently under the control of the Misrata militias.
Similarly, it was a Misrata militia that apparently captured and then killed Qaddafi while he was in their custody. Details of how and why his death occurred are still unknown.
The Misratans have made it clear that they detest anyone who supported Qaddafi during the conflict.
Misrata withstood a two-month siege from Qaddafi’s forces with almost daily attacks that left around 1,000 of its citizens dead. The city now is a shell of its former self with collapsed, charred buildings highlighted by the blight of ubiquitous bullet-holes.
The militia is focusing a large amount of its anger on Tawergha, a town of approximately 30,000 located just south of Misrata. Residents from both cities say that residents from Tawergha took up arms to fight for Qaddafi. The Misratans claim that these volunteers are guilty of raping and pillaging, though they have yet to produce any evidence, claiming that the victims are too embarrassed to come forward.
Most Tawerghans fled their town as Misratan fighters advanced on it between 10 August and 12 August. Witnesses and victims have provided credible accounts of the Misratan militias shooting and wounding unarmed Tawerghans and torturing detainees, in a few cases to death.
In the city of Hun, located about 250 miles from Misrata, Benghazi militias have begun protecting about 4,000 Tawerghan refugees. They say that the Misratans are hunting the Tawerghas all over the country.
Representatives of the National Transitional Council (NTC) have issued statements, agreeing with the Misrata militias, saying that no Tawerghans should return home. Ibrahim Yusuf bin Ghashir, one such representative, said: “We think it would be better to relocate them somewhere else.” He added that the rape allegations “cannot be forgiven and it would be better to resettle them far away.”
The unforgiving plan of not allowing refugees to return home is not limited to Tawerghans. The Misratans have made it clear that any group that supported Qaddafi will not be tolerated.
HRW has called the forced resettlement and abuses of the refugees a crime against humanity, a charge that is made more egregious by the fact that the much of the reasoning given for the Libyan war was to end such treatments by the Qaddafi regime.
The stories of abuses committed by these militias post- war have been pouring in through various human rights organizations. They are equally horrific, and have invited international condemnation and calls for the NTC to initiate investigations and bring the offenders to justice.
The NTC says it has plans to open investigations into any post-war abuses, but it has yet to offer specifics or respond directly to the allegations of the crimes committed by the militias published in a report by HRW.
For more information, please see:
Raw Story — Libya militias accused of ‘revenge attacks’ — 30 Oct. 2011
CNN — NTC will investigate allegations of crimes against pro-Gadhafi forces, official says — 30 Oct. 2011
Reuters — Cycle of revenge hangs over Libya’s fragile peace — 30 Oct. 2011
Human Rights Watch — Libya: Militias Terrorizing Residents of ‘Loyalist’ Town — 30 Oct. 2011
Human Rights Watch — The Murder Brigades of Misrata — 28 Oct. 2011