Black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans are being targeted by rebel fighters who suspect them of backing Muammar Qaddafi, Amnesty International said.
Amnesty investigators this week visited the Central Tripoli Hospital and the capital’s morgue where they witnessed abuses, including men being dragged from hospital beds and detained, the London-based group said in a statement late yesterday. Some people are afraid to leave their homes, it said.
Sub-Saharan Africans risk reprisals from NATO-backed rebels because of allegations that Qaddafi used African mercenaries during the six-month conflict, Amnesty said. Many black Libyans are from the western town of Tawarga, which rebels associate with the shelling and siege of nearby Misrata by pro-Qaddafi forces, it said.
“The problem is black Libyans always were seen as outsiders, and this stems probably from how Qaddafi decided he would be an African leader of an African state and encouraged a large amount of African immigrants, some of whom served in his wars,” Shashank Joshi, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said today in an interview.
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of the National Transitional Council, has urged opposition fighters not to seek revenge. In May, the council issued guidelines for its forces to act in accordance with international laws and standards. Mahmoud Shamman, a spokesman for the council in Dubai, didn’t answer calls seeking comment on the Amnesty statement.
“This reflects very badly on the NTC,” Joshi said of the Amnesty report. “They have said the right things, but their ability to enforce those lofty ideals on those with the guns in the streets is a lot more difficult.”
In visits to detention centers in Zawiya and Tripoli, Amnesty said it was told that between a third and a half of those detained were from Sub-Saharan Africa.
The rebels seem “to confuse black people with mercenaries,” African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping told reporters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, on Aug. 29.
The council will need to “show sensitivity to these concerns” if the rebel forces attempt to take Sirte, Joshi said. Jalil yesterday gave Qaddafi supporters in his hometown until Sept. 3 to surrender or face attacks.
Hold Fighters Accountable
In the statement, Claudio Cordone, a senior director at Amnesty, called on the council to ensure its fighters are held accountable.
“Fighters engaging in abuses should be immediately removed from active duty, pending investigation,” he said.
During an Aug. 28 visit to a poor residential area of Tripoli, Amnesty investigators found a group of Eritreans who wouldn’t leave their homes because they feared being attacked, according to the report.
The following day, Amnesty said its investigators saw three rebels drag a black Libyan from his bed at the Central Tripoli Hospital and detain him. Two other black Libyans receiving treatment for gunshot wounds were told by anti-Qaddafi forces that “their turn was coming,” according to the report.
Amnesty said its workers examined that same day the body of an unidentified black man who was brought into the Tripoli Medical Center morgue by unknown men. While he bore no visible injuries, his feet and his torso were tied and blood was smudged around his mouth.