Libyan Rebels Accused Of Attacking Civilians

According to The New York Times, Libyan rebels are being accused of attacking civilians in several captured towns:

Rebels in the mountains in Libya’s west have looted and damaged four towns seized since last month from the forces of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, part of a series of abuses and apparent reprisals against suspected loyalists that have chased residents of these towns away, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

The looting included many businesses and at least two medical centers that, like the towns, are now deserted and bare.

Rebel fighters also beat people suspected of being loyalists and burned their homes, the organization said.

The towns that have suffered the abuses are Qawalish, which rebels seized last week, Awaniya, Rayaniyah and Zawiyat al-Bagul, which fell to the rebels last month. Some of the abuses, Human Rights Watch said, were directed against members of the Mashaashia tribe, which has long supported Colonel Qaddafi.

The organization’s findings come as support for the war has waned in Europe and in Washington, where Republicans and Democrats alike have questioned American participation on budgetary and legal grounds.

They also raise the prospect that the NATO-backed rebel advances, which have stalled or slowed to a crawl, risk being accompanied by further retaliatory crimes that could inflame tribal or factional grievances, endangering the civilians that NATO was mandated to protect.

Rebel officials in the mountains have played down the looting and arson in recent days. In an interview on Sunday, Col. Mukhtar Farnana, the region’s senior commander, said that reprisals were not sanctioned and that he did not know any details about them.

But Human Rights Watch said the same commander shared details with its investigators and conceded that rebels had abused people suspected of being collaborators as towns changed hands.

“People who stayed in the towns were working with the army,” the organization quoted him as saying. “Houses that were robbed and broken into were ones that the army had used, including for ammunition storage.” The commander added, “Those people who were beaten were working for Qaddafi’s brigades.”

This isn’t the first time there have been rumors of attacks on civilians by the rebels, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. Considering that the United Nations Security Council Resolutions that authorized the intervention in Libya speak to protection of civilians, this would seem to create a conflict between NATO’s support of the rebels and its supposed enforcement of the UNSCRs.


FILED UNDER: Africa, Quick Takes, United Nations, World Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. michael reynolds says:

    Oh, look, here’s another interesting paragraph from the same article:

    Such rebels actions, however, have paled next to the abuses of Colonel Qaddafi’s forces, which have fired on unarmed demonstrators and used artillery, rocket batteries and mortars against many rebel-held cities and towns.

    Probably an accidental omission.

  2. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds: Way to apologize for brutal murder!

  3. Chad S says:

    I find it curious that this blog mentions this story, but won’t mention the rebels’ progress(and are pushing on Tripoli) or Qaddafi looking for an exit with france’s help or the siege of Misrata.

  4. @Chad S:

    1. Foreign policy posts typically garner very little attention

    2. The progress of the Libyan Civil War is a Libyan concern, not an American one

  5. Chad S says:

    @Doug Mataconis: By that logic, why post this post in the first place? If the libyan civil war is a Libyan concern and FP pots don’t garner the attention ya’ll are looking for….why did you post about an accusation about what the rebels might be doing?

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Matt: I’m sorry, where was the part about brutal murder?

  7. michael reynolds says:

    This is also interesting:

    Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi is sending fresh signals through emissaries that he is ready to discuss stepping down, Western diplomats said Tuesday, as new intelligence assessments pointed to worsening conditions among his troops.

    The overtures by aides close to Gaddafi appeared to reflect a deepening pessimism inside a government that is under assault on two fronts and faces shortages of critical supplies, according to U.S. and European analysts and government officials.

    But that doesn’t fit Doug’s narrative on Libya — a “war” that has thus far cost us exactly zero American lives and may soon see the end of the tyrant who had Pan Am 103 blown out of the air over Lockerbie, Scotland.

  8. Matt says:

    @michael reynolds: You point out that quadaffi’s forces are killing way more innocent civilians thus implying that the US was right to back the side that does less murdering.