The Associated Press reports: Moammar Gadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam was captured in a southern Libyan city along with two of his aides who were trying to smuggle him out of the country, a militia commander said on Saturday.
Bashir al-Tlayeb of the Zintan brigades said that Seif al-Islam was caught in the desert town of Obari, near the southern city of Sabha about 400 miles (650 kilometers) south of Tripoli.
He didn’t elaborate on how Seif al-Islam was captured, but said that he was brought to the city of Zintan, the home of one of the largest revolutionary brigades in Libya.
Al-Tlayeb said that it would be up to the Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council to decide on where the former Libyan leader would be tried.
He also said that there was still no information about wanted former intelligence director Abdullah Senoussi or where he is located.
Seif al-Islam is the last of Moammar Gadhafi’s sons to remain unaccounted for.
The New York Times reports: The present and future are daunting enough for the wobbly authorities here, but then there is the tormented past to consider as well: four decades of state crimes whose wounds demand attention.
With mass murders, disappearances and public executions, the victims of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s People’s Court, Internal Security Agency and State Security Court number in the tens of thousands, human rights advocates here and abroad say. How will Libyans come to terms with their past?
Already, the provisional leaders are pondering options for exposing the long catalog of killings and torture, looking to models from South Africa, Europe and Latin America. They are motivated by a conviction, they say, that a new nation cannot be built unless light is shed on the dark corners of the old.
The specifics are being worked out, like so much else in a country that appears to be shaking itself awake after a long, bad dream. But the interim minister of justice, a veteran of legal jousting with the Qaddafi government from within and without, said there was a tentative plan: investigation, public hearings and prosecution, with the inquiry reaching all the way back to the earliest days of Colonel Qaddafi’s rise to power in 1969.
“We look to Chile, Argentina, South Africa — we take part of South Africa,” said the interim justice minister, Mohammed al-Alagi, referring to the approach of that country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which emphasized fact-finding and accountability rather than punishment.
Most important, Mr. Alagi suggested in an interview in the empty and echoing Justice Ministry here, was the imperative for Libyans to confront Qaddafi-era crimes in a country where there were no independent media to report them.
The New York Times reports: Many of the local militia leaders who helped topple Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi are abandoning a pledge to give up their weapons and now say they intend to preserve their autonomy and influence political decisions as “guardians of the revolution.”
The issue of the militias is one of the most urgent facing Libya’s new provisional government, the Transitional National Council. Scores of freewheeling brigades of armed volunteers sprang up around the country and often reported to local military councils, which became de facto local governments in cities like Misurata and Zintan, as well as the capital, Tripoli.
The provisional government’s departing prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, suggested in a news conference Sunday night that instead of expecting the local militias to disband, the Transitional National Council should try to incorporate them by expanding to include their representatives.
“Nobody wants to give up arms now, and many tribes and cities are accumulating arms ‘just in case,’ ” said Mahmoud Shammam, a spokesman for the council’s executive board.
Noting reports of sporadic clashes between militias as well as vigilante revenge killings, many civilian leaders, along with some fighters, say the militias’ shift from merely dragging their feet about surrendering weapons to actively asserting a continuing political role poses a stark challenge to the council’s fragile authority.
“This could lead to a mess, to conflict between the councils,” said Ramadan Zarmoh, 63, a leader of the Misurata military council, who argued that the city’s militia should dissolve itself almost immediately after a new defense ministry is formed. “If we want to have democracy, we can’t have this.”
Daniel Williams writes: If anyone is surprised by the apparent killing of Moammar Gadhafi while in the custody of militia members from the town of Misrata, they shouldn’t be.
More than 100 militia brigades from Misrata have been operating outside of any official military and civilian command since Tripoli fell in August. Members of these militias have engaged in torture, pursued suspected enemies far and wide, detained them and shot them in detention, Human Rights Watch has found. Members of these brigades have stated that the entire displaced population of one town, Tawergha, which they believe largely supported Gadhafi avidly, cannot return home.
As the war in Libya comes to an end, the pressing need for accountability and reconciliation is clear. The actions of the Misrata brigades are a gauge of how difficult that will be, and Misrata is not alone in its call for vengeance. In the far west, anti-Gadhafi militias from the Nafusa Mountains have looted and burned homes and schools of tribes that supported the deposed dictator. Anti-Gadhafi militias from Zuwara have looted property as they demanded compensation for damage they suffered during the war.
The apparent execution of 53 pro-Gadhafi supporters in a hotel in Sirte apparently under control of Misrata fighters is a bad omen. It is up to the National Transitional Council to rein in all the militias and quickly establish a functioning justice system. The NTC should take control of the many makeshift detention facilities, expedite the return of displaced Libyans, and ensure the investigation, trial and punishment of wrongdoers acting in the name of vengeance. That includes Gadhafi’s killers if the evidence showed crimes were committed. The NTC, and its foreign backers, have comprehensively failed to start setting up a justice system — even in Benghazi, where they have been in charge since the spring.
Clearly the NTC is up against the passions of a nasty war. Misrata withstood a two-month siege at the hands of Gadhafi’s forces with near-daily indiscriminate attacks that killed about 1,000 of its citizens. The town’s main boulevard, Tripoli Street, is in ruins. Facades of public buildings and private homes collapsed from tank fire and are charred inside and out. The pockmarks of bullet holes disfigure construction everywhere.
The fierce fight for Misrata has left a penetrating bitter aftertaste. Misratans say they detest anyone who backed Gadhafi. They are not welcome in Misrata, even if the city and its environs was their home for generations.
The Misrata militia is focusing its greatest wrath on Tawergha, a town of about 30,000 people just south of the city. Both Misratans and Tawerghas say residents there were enthusiastic Gadhafi supporters. Hundreds of erstwhile civilians in that town took up arms to fight for him. Misratans say Tawergha volunteers committed rapes and pillaged with gusto, though Misrata officials decline to produce evidence of the alleged rapes, saying family shame inhibits witnesses and victims from coming forward.
In any event, Misratan militia members are venting their anger on all Tawerghas, who are largely descendants of African slaves. Most fled their town as Misratan fighters advanced there between Aug. 10 and Aug. 12.
Witnesses and victims we interviewed provided credible accounts of Misratan militias shooting and wounding unarmed Tawerghas and torturing detainees, in a few cases to death. In Hun, about 250 miles south of Misrata, militias from Benghazi have taken it upon themselves to protect about 4,000 refugees. They say Misratans are hunting down Tawerghas.
One hospitalized Tawergha told Human Rights Watch how he was shot in the side and leg and abandoned to die near Hun: “They left us at the edge of the road, put a blanket over us and then started swearing, ‘You are dogs, hope you die.’”
Misrata militias, with the momentary compliance of local officials, insist that no Tawerghas should return to the area. Ibrahim Yusuf bin Ghashir, a representative of the NTC, said: “We think it would be better to relocate them somewhere else.” The allegations of rape, he added, “cannot be forgiven and it would be better to resettle them far away.”
This unforgiving campaign is not limited to Tawerghas. Many Misratans say that any tribe or group that supported Gadhafi — thousands of people — should not return to the city. The graffiti on tumble-down town walls express Misratans’ view: “(Expletive) No returnees.”
Human Rights Watch has interviewed refugees from Misrata who tried to return and were forbidden to enter the city without a permit from the local council. A Misrata militia member told the media that all pro-Gadhafi travelers are barred from the city.
As painful as the losses have been for Misrata and the rest of Libya, everyone who fought Gadhafi should remember what they were fighting for: an end to torture, to arbitrary detention, to pitting one tribe against another; for respect and equality among neighbors. Otherwise, the agony that preceded victory will breed vengeance, rancor and a divided new Libya — one that in disturbing ways may resemble the old.
Daniel Williams is a Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch
The Associated Press reports: For the past two months, Tawergha has been a ghost town, with access roads blocked by earthen mounds and other obstacles. Road signs pointing to Tawergha have been painted over. Misrata brigades have scribbled slogans on the walls of abandoned homes.
“The Tawergha are the rats of Gadhafi,” read graffiti on one facade, using Gadhafi’s derogatory name for his opponents. The fallen regime had tried to ensure Tawergha’s loyalty with promises of jobs and investment, and while some of the homes there were ramshackle, the town also boasted a modern school, medical clinic and rows of new apartment buildings.
A tour of Tawergha on Friday showed widespread vandalism. The school, clinic, small shops and modern apartments had been ransacked, with some rooms burned and contents of closets strewn on the ground.
Human Rights Watch said its team saw militias and individuals from Misrata set 12 homes on fire during a three-day period in early October. On Oct. 25, the team saw trucks drive out of Tawergha with furniture and carpets that had apparently been looted, and that Misrata fighters who claimed to be guarding the town did not intervene.
Two Misrata fighters driving through Tawergha on Friday said the town’s residents are no longer welcome. “They will have to find a different place and build houses there,” said 22-year-old Naji Akhlaf, standing outside a small grocery that had been largely emptied out, with cartons of juice strewn across the entrance.
“This is the best solution so we can relax and get on with our lives,” he said.
Tawerghans also lived in other parts of Libya, including in Misrata where a rundown apartment complex that once housed hundreds of them is to be razed. City officials say the complex is also home to non-Tawerghans and is being torn down because it’s unsanitary and unsafe. Tawerghans have fled those apartments and their neighbors said they won’t allow them back.
Human Rights Watch, citing interviews with dozens of Tawerghans, said they gave credible accounts of arbitrary arrests and beatings of detainees by Misrata militias, including descriptions of two deaths in custody.
About 10,000 Tawerghans have reached two camps on the outskirts of the eastern city of Benghazi, until recently the seat of the National Transitional Council, and U.N. officials say that number is growing. Thousands more have sought refuge near Tripoli, Tarhouna and in remote areas of the south.
An NTC-funded aid group, LibAid, is providing food and other supplies to some of the displaced, said Mohammed el-Sweii, an official in the group. El-Sweii said guards have been stationed at the camps to prevent acts of revenge.
The New York Times reports: When Tripoli, the Libyan capital, fell, rebel fighters found secret intelligence documents linking Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to a plot by former members of Saddam Hussein’s military and Baath Party to overthrow the Iraqi government, according to an Iraqi official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The details of the plot were revealed to Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, this month in a surprise visit to Baghdad by Libya’s interim leader, Mahmoud Jibril, said the official, who demanded anonymity because the matter was supposed to be confidential. This week, Iraqi security forces responded, arresting more than 200 suspects in connection with the plot.
The looted ruins of Colonel Qaddafi’s intelligence headquarters in Tripoli have revealed many secrets. The trove has uncovered ties between the Libyan strongman and the C.I.A. and shed light on negotiations between Chinese arms dealers and Libyan officials during the course of the uprising, an embarrassment to officials in Beijing.
But here in Iraq, the records of Colonel Qaddafi’s plot had special resonance. The Iraqi news media celebrated Colonel Qaddafi’s death last week. But the news that the colonel may have been backing a Baathist-led coup added another layer of intrigue just as Iraq was digesting the weekend news that President Obama had announced that the last American soldier would leave by the end of the year. Some suggested that it was a fiction spread only to allow for the arrests of Sunnis, a reflection of the fragile sectarian tensions.
“The people that were arrested do not deserve this, because many of them were old,” said Hamid al-Mutlaq, a member of Parliament’s security committee from the Iraqiya bloc, which is largely Sunni. “The timing for this is bad because the U.S. forces are about to leave, and we should focus on national reconciliation.”
On state television, Hussein Kamal, Iraq’s deputy interior minister, said the plot included agitators spread throughout the country’s south and just north of Baghdad, and had been planning “terrorist operations and sabotage” after the withdrawal of the United States military.
The New York Times reports: Libya’s interim leader said Wednesday that he had asked NATO to prolong its air patrols through December and add military advisers on the ground, despite his official declaration on Sunday of the country’s liberation after the killing of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
“We have asked NATO to stay until the end of the year, and it certainly has the international legitimacy to remain in Libya to protect the civilians from Qaddafi loyalists,” the interim leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, said in an interview with the pan-Arab news channel Al Jazeera.
“Qaddafi still has supporters in neighboring countries and we fear those loyalists could be launching attacks against us and infiltrating our borders,” he said. “We need technical support and training for our troops on the ground. We also need communications equipment and we need aerial intelligence to monitor our borders.”
Mr. Abdel-Jalil was interviewed while attending a Libya aid conference in Doha, Qatar. He spoke as NATO was preparing within days to formally end its operations in Libya and as the country enters a treacherous new phase in its post-Qaddafi transformation.
The New York Times reports: The leader of Libya’s transitional government declared to thousands of revelers in a crowded square here on Sunday that Libya’s revolution had ended, setting the country on the path to elections, and he vowed that the new government would be based on Islamic tenets.
The sea of flag-waving citizens reacted with shouts of “God is great;” minutes earlier, they had sung the bouncy Italianate national anthem used before Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi came to power. The song has been revived to help celebrate the downfall of the dictator, who was killed on Thursday.
Two strands — a new piety and all-purpose, free-wheeling euphoria — dominated the hastily improvised ceremony, which was intended to put a cap on Libya’s bloody upheaval and mark the beginning of the country’s transition to something approaching normalcy. Laws, institutions, civic life — all must be built from scratch after four decades of Colonel Qaddafi’s personality-cult dictatorship. It is a challenge whose immensity many in the crowd acknowledged, even as they expressed relief that it could finally be undertaken.
The transitional government’s leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, stooping humbly to shake hands in the crowd and embracing the elderly relative of a fallen rebel, made clear that personality would have nothing to do with the new order here.
“We are an Islamic country,” Mr. Abdel-Jalil, the chairman of the Transitional National Council, said as the sun descended. “We take the Islamic religion as the core of our new government. The constitution will be based on our Islamic religion.” He also promised that Islamic banks would be established in the new Libya.
The emphasis on Islam in the short speech — he began by thanking God and declaring God “the greatest — appeared to be an answer of sorts to the speculation about how much of a role religion might play here.
And though Mr. Abdel-Jalil’s religion-edged speech was met with enthusiasm, the crowd’s focus was on freedom, and the pride over how the country had acquired it. Several people suggested that Libya had been virtually imprisoned for 42 years, the length of Colonel Qaddafi’s reign.
“It’s a new life. My feelings are just overwhelming now,” said a man holding the Libyan flag — the pre-Qaddafi banner has also been revived — and standing with his 8-year-old son, who was doing the same. “I never pictured this happening,” said the man, Yousef Amar, an electrical engineer. “This is the beginning, like when the flower grows from nothing.”
Two middle-aged women, beaming, expressed astonishment as they stood together in what is now known as Victory Square. “This is the greatest day of our lives,” said one of them, Mneeba Gargoum. “I’ve never felt this way before for our country,” she said. Her friend, Hawa el-Hawaz, chimed in: “We didn’t have hope before this day. Without Qaddafi, Libya is free. We feel like we are in real country now.”
Mr. Abdel-Jalil, sober and precise, waited patiently as the crowd interrupted him to chant, “Hold your head up high, you’re a free Libyan.” He urged a new respect for the law, and in a nod to the complications of a country that has known years of living under a dictator — he himself was a justice minister under Colonel Qaddafi — exhorted his countrymen to pursue “forgiveness, patience and the truth.”
Jason Pack writes: Amid many questions about the future of post-Gaddafi Libya, one fact cannot be ignored: the Libyan revolution of 2011 is dissimilar – in scope, content, and origin – to its sister revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Indeed, it has almost no parallels in world history.
Generally, sweeping revolutionary change (France in 1789, Russia in 1917, etc) is carried out by an organised group at the centre of power with a distinct ideology. In Libya, the revolution originated in the periphery and is surprisingly devoid of ideology.
As with the French and the Russian revolutions, this year’s events in Libya have caused extensive social, political, and structural inversions. By comparison, regime change in Tunisia and Egypt is akin to the “regime change” that democratic countries experience every few years when one leadership group is thrown out and replaced by a new one – generally from within the elites. In this process, the middle-level bureaucrats in the civil service, army, foreign service and local politicians are largely unaffected.
Optimists will note that in Egypt and Tunisia constitutional change is also expected – meaning a rebalancing of the roles of president, army, legislature, bureaucracy, and people. Realists will note that although the future constitutions of these countries are likely to weaken the role of the president and eliminate the use of emergency laws, they are unlikely to fundamentally change the connection between the state, citizens and army or to invert the social classes as the French or Russian revolutions did, or as the Libyan one probably will.
Libya’s revolution was unusual in that it was accomplished by many disparate but highly cohesive local movements that eventually liberated the capital by force. In Libya, a diffuse periphery dominates the centre – and it is hard to think of any other historical revolutionary movement where this was the case.
As a result, there is a danger of “regionalist triumphalism” where “a series of local movements each proclaim their centrality to defeating Gaddafi in an attempt to claim a privileged position in the new Libya,” Lisa Anderson, president of the American University of Cairo, suggested in a phone interview.
What united all of these disparate localities was a distaste for Gaddafi and his centralism. Now Gaddafi is gone. A US diplomat described it to me as follows: “The situation on the ground bears an uncanny resemblance to how the different American states joined together out of their distaste for King George. Once he was gone, stitching the states together was highly problematic. In Libya, the situation of building a nation is even more complex because it is lacking in robust state-level institutions.”
The Guardian reports:
Libya’s new leaders are poised to declare the country’s “full liberation” is complete and appoint a new transitional government.
The new government will regard the war as won with the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s home town, Sirte – where there is still heavy fighting. It remains one of the last loyalist holdouts, along with Bani Walid, which remains under the control of pro-Gaddafi forces, who are besieged inside.
The declaration and the formation of a new government – with elections planned after eight months – are intended to bring an end to an increasingly dangerous political vacuum in Libya.
The interim prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, and the head of the National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, plan to step down, having pledged to take no further part in the country’s future government. The NTC constitution specifies that no temporary government figures should serve in any future elected Libyan government.
The latest attempts to bring about an end to the developing political crisis in Libya comes as military leaders described the latest push on Sirte, which began on Monday after a two-day truce, as the “final assault”.
Reuters reports on conditions inside Sirte and the residents’ fears of a protracted fight.
Fleeing besieged Sirte, Ali Durgham couldn’t stop the tears as he described how his father had been killed by a stray shell as he walked to the mosque with his brother.
“He died in my arms,” Durgham said. “I buried him yesterday.”
The young man’s uncle is now in Sirte’s Ibn Sina hospital — but it, too, has been hit in the fighting, residents said.
“The hospital is being attacked with shells,” Durgham said, echoing other people leaving the city. “It’s filled with dirt. There’s only three doctors who are working with patients.”
Despite the shelling and a deeper push into the city by interim government forces ahead of what may be a final battle, he said he was determined to go back into Sirte on Wednesday to bring his uncle out.
The stories told by the people streaming out of Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown, mostly recounted at checkpoints manned by anti-Gaddafi forces, provide a grim snapshot of life inside.
“It is unimaginable back there,” Masoud Awidat, who had just driven out of the town in a car with a bullet-riddled windscreen and door, told Reuters.
“It gets worse every day. There’s no food. There are fires, apartments are destroyed.”
Terrified residents are sleeping in the streets and under stairs for fear that their roofs will fall in overnight.
People talked of two families whose cars had been hit by rocket propelled grenades as they tried to flee the city.
One man showed a piece of string holding up his trousers because he had not eaten for so long.
“These used to fit me,” he said.
A Red Cross team who managed to deliver medical supplies to Sirte’s hospital has reported that the city of about 100,000 people has no power. Civilians say many streets are flooded.
Sirte has been under attack for about three weeks, the target of a couple of all-out assaults and near-constant shelling by interim government forces and NATO air strikes.
Pro-Gaddafi fighters inside are putting up fierce resistance and, NATO and some civilians say, forcibly recruiting locals to fight alongside them and preventing people from getting out.
“We reached the outskirts of the city but the militia stopped us from leaving,” Awidat said of a previous attempt he made to leave. He managed to slip out on Tuesday morning.
“Where we live there are still families trapped,” he said.
Sirte presents a conundrum for the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) and for NATO, whose mandate in Libya is to protect of civilians.
The NTC must strike a balance between a prolonged fight that would delay their efforts to govern and a quicker but bloody victory that would worsen regional divisions and embarrass the fledgling government and its foreign backers.
Some civilians say pro-Gaddafi fighters are hiding in residential areas, raising fears of vicious street battles ahead.
“Sirte is not going to be like Tripoli,” said NTC medic Mashallah Al-Zoy, referring to the relatively easy manner in which anti-Gaddafi fighters swept into the capital.
“It will be street-to-street, house-to-house, like (Gaddafi) said.”
The Guardian reports:
Libyan rebel forces claim to have discovered banned chemical weapons stockpiles in southern desert areas captured from Gaddafi loyalists in the last few days.
Spokesmen for the National Transitional Council (NTC) said a depot had been found in the Jufra area, 435 miles (700km) south of Tripoli, during part of an offensive against regime strongholds in the remote south of the country.
The rebels also say they have now taken most of Sebha, the largest town in the area whose tribes were long seen as loyal to Gaddafi and is an important staging post for travel to Niger, where some former regime figures have fled. Libyan officials have confirmed that a senior intelligence officer was captured there two days ago.
It had been thought that Gaddafi himself might have been hiding in Sebha along with his fugitive second son, Saif al-Islam, but NTC fighters found no trace of them.
In New York, Libya’s new leaders were welcomed this week at the UN.
Libya’s new flag flew at the United Nations on Tuesday for the first time since Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow as U.S. President Barack Obama called for the last of the deposed leader’s loyalists to stop fighting.
International leaders at a high-level U.N. conference on Libya congratulated Libyans — and themselves — for Gaddafi’s removal by NATO-backed rebels in a seven-month-old conflict.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, welcoming Libya’s new leaders into the international community, said the Security Council had acted to protect the Libyan people from violence.
“Today, we must once again respond with such speed and decisive action — this time to consolidate peace and democracy,” Ban added.
Libya has reverted to the flag that was used from 1951 until 1977 when Gaddafi, who ruled for nearly 42 years, introduced a green flag for his Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, or people’s republic.
Libya’s new rulers, finally recognized on Tuesday by the African Union, are still trying to dislodge well-armed Gaddafi loyalists from several towns and have yet to start a countdown toward writing a new constitution and holding elections.
They face questions about whether they can unify a country divided on tribal, regional and ideological lines.
Mustafa Abdul Jalil, president of Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council (NTC), promised a spirit of tolerance and reconciliation and appealed for international assistance to help his country emerge from conflict and build democracy.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports:
A prominent critic of Libya’s new rulers said on Tuesday interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril should resign over what he said was a failure to supply ammunition to troops fighting forces still loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.
Demands have been made before for members of the country’s National Transitional Council (NTC) to step down, but the latest intervention is likely to add to pressure on Jibril, who is already struggling with a stalled military offensive and a failure to form a new government.
Influential Islamist scholar Ali Al-Sallabi told Reuters that Jibril was responsible for failing to get enough ammunition to anti-Gaddafi forces struggling to take Sirte, one of the last remaining bastions of the former veteran ruler.
Sallabi, jailed in the 1980s for opposition activities, suggested ammunition levels among NTC forces were dangerously low.
“No doubt on the eastern front the ammunition has finished. We should ask Mr. Jibril, why did it finish?,” he said, speaking through a translator.
“Now there is an immense mass of revolutionaries that do not want Jibril. Accordingly, Mr. Jibril should resign. Why is he insisting to continue? Such persistence I see is a political mistake which is not in the interest of the Libyan people.”
NTC military spokesman Ahmed Bani denied that supplies were a problem. “There’s enough ammunition. The fighters say there is enough,” he told Reuters.
Since the fall of Tripoli a month ago, Sallabi has emerged as a prominent spokesman for groups of Islamists unhappy about what they see as attempts by Benghazi-based NTC leaders to exclude them from political life.
He has no formal political role but is a significant voice in Libyan affairs because he has good relations with Qatar, an influential backer of the NTC, and has a wide network of contacts in global Islamist circles.
He also is a friend of Tripoli’s military commander Abdel Hakim Belhadj, a rising Islamist figure in post-Gaddafi Libya.
Sallabi’s brother, Ismail, a commander of anti-Gaddafi fighters, earlier this month called on the NTC to resign because they were “remnants of the old regime.”
Sallabi’s pressure comes at a delicate moment for Jibril. His administration is in political limbo after he failed to get the full backing of the NTC for an enlarged executive committee, or cabinet, with himself ruling as both prime minister and foreign minister.
The executive committee was dissolved last month after procedural errors in an investigation into the unexplained killing of the NTC’s military chief. Sources familiar with the negotiations said that one of the sticking points in the weekend meeting was the future role of Jibril in the new cabinet.
In a telephone interview with Reuters from Qatar, where he is temporarily based, Sallabi said Jibril had failed to cultivate good relations with neighbouring countries such as Algeria, Niger, Chad and Tunisia.
The New York Times reports:
Aisha Gdour, a school psychologist, smuggled bullets in her brown leather handbag. Fatima Bredan, a hairdresser, tended wounded rebels. Hweida Shibadi, a family lawyer, helped NATO find airstrike targets. And Amal Bashir, an art teacher, used a secret code to collect orders for munitions: Small-caliber rounds were called “pins,” larger rounds were “nails.” A “bottle of milk” meant a Kalashnikov.
In the Libyan rebels’ unlikely victory over Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, women did far more than send sons and husbands to the front. They hid fighters and cooked them meals. They sewed flags, collected money, contacted journalists. They ran guns and, in a few cases, used them. The six-month uprising against Colonel Qaddafi has propelled women in this traditional society into roles they never imagined. And now, though they already face obstacles to preserving their influence, many women never want to go back.
“Maybe I can be the new president or the mayor,” Ms. Gdour, 44, said Monday afternoon as she savored victory with other members of her rebel cell. They are three women who under the old government ran an underground charity that they transformed into a pipeline for rebel arms.
But in the emerging new Libya, women are so far almost invisible in the leadership. Libya’s 45-member Transitional National Council includes just one woman. The council’s headquarters does not have a women’s bathroom.
In neighboring Egypt, women have had trouble preserving gains from their own revolution. And in his exceedingly eccentric way, Colonel Qaddafi may have had a more expansive view of appropriate female behavior than some conservative Libyan families.
Still, much as Rosie the Riveter irreversibly changed the lives of American women after World War II, Libyan women say their war effort established facts on the ground that cannot be easily undone. Women from many walks of life are knitting small rebel support cells into larger networks, brainstorming what they can do next to help build a post-Qaddafi Libya.
The National Transitional Council (NTC) must get a grip on armed anti-Gaddafi groups to stop reprisal attacks and arbitrary arrests, Amnesty International warned as it released a major report into human rights violations during the Libyan conflict.
The 107-page report The Battle for Libya: Killings, Disappearances and Torture reveals that while al-Gaddafi forces committed widespread crimes under international law during the conflict, forces loyal to the NTC have also committed abuses that in some cases amounted to war crimes.
“The new authorities must make a complete break with the abuses of the past four decades and set new standards by putting human rights at the centre of their agenda” said Claudio Cordone, Senior Director at Amnesty International.
“The onus now is on the NTC to do things differently, end abuses and initiate the human rights reforms that are urgently needed.”
Patrick Cockburn writes:
The overthrow of Gaddafi has brought together strange allies, but few stranger than Abdulhakim Belhaj, the military commander of all rebel military forces in Tripoli, and Nato. An Islamist whom Gaddafi tried to have the US list as a terrorist, Mr Belhaj says he was tortured by CIA agents after being arrested in the Far East in 2004 and later handed over by them to Colonel Gaddafi for further torture and imprisonment in Libya.
Mr Belhaj, the head of the military council for Tripoli, who led an Islamist guerrilla organisation fighting the Gaddafi regime in the 1990s, told The Independent in an interview that he had been directly “tortured by CIA agents” in Thailand after being first arrested in Malaysia.
If true, his story is evidence of the close co-operation between the CIA and Colonel Gaddafi’s security services after the Libyan leader denounced the 9/11 attacks. After his stint in the hands of the CIA, Mr Belhaj was kept in Abu Salim prison in Tripoli. He says: “I was in prison for seven years during which I was subjected to torture as well as solitary confinement. I was even denied a shower for three years.” Other Libyan Islamist prisoners have related how they were sometimes taken from Abu Salim to be questioned by US officials in Tripoli.
Released from prison in 2010, Mr Belhaj, who had military experience from fighting in Afghanistan against the Russians in the 1980s, became one of the most effective rebel military commanders. He is said by diplomats to have played a crucial role in the capture of Tripoli at the end of last month, and is highly regarded by the chairman of the Transitional National Council (TNC), Mustafa Abdul Jalil.
Ironically, given his claims of previous mistreatment at US hands, Mr Belhaj has emerged as one of Nato’s most important allies during their air campaign in support of the rebels over the last six months. Speaking in his headquarters in the Mitiga military airbase on the eastern outskirts of Tripoli, he forcefully denied that he and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which he helped found in 1995, had ever been allied to al-Qa’ida.
“We never had any link to al-Qa’ida,” said Mr Belhaj, a short, soft-spoken, bearded man, who does not use a military title. “We never took part in global jihad. The fact that we were in the same country, Afghanistan, [as al-Qa’ida] does not mean we had the same goal.” He stresses that the sole aim of the LIFG was always to overthrow Gaddafi.
Despite his current close co-operation with Nato, Mr Belhaj says he finds it difficult to forgive his treatment by the CIA in the past.
When first detained at an airport in Malaysia in 2004 he says he was with his wife: “She was six months pregnant and she suffered a lot.”
After a few days, CIA agents took him to Thailand as part of the notorious rendition process by which the agency transferred prisoners to countries where security forces were known to use torture. He says that in Thailand CIA agents took a direct part in his torture, though he did not give details. He says that “if I ever have the chance I will take legal action” against those responsible.
The disclosure of Libya’s intelligence files may reveal embarrassing details of co-operation between the CIA and other Western intelligence agencies with Gaddafi’s brutal and ruthless security services in pursuit of Islamist opponents. Mr Belhaj says that in the wake of 9/11, the US administration reacted by pursuing “any organisation with an Islamic agenda”.
Mr Belhaj spent seven years in Abu Salim prison which was the site of the Gaddafi regime’s most infamous atrocity, the massacre of some 1,200 prisoners in 1999, almost all of them Islamists, who had protested against conditions. The first protests which ushered in the uprising in Benghazi this February was by lawyers representing the families of the dead Abu Salim prisoners.
The Libyan prison was run with great savagery even against those whose offences were minor. Students accused of being excessively religious were stripped naked and attacked by dogs. Prisoners who survived might spend decades without seeing their families. In Abu Salim, Mr Belhaj helped write a 419-page document, published in 2009, which repudiated the Jihadi doctrine of holy war and the use of violence to change regimes. The name of the LIFG was changed to the Libyan Islamic Movement for Change. The ideological change, spurred by the failure of radical Islamic groups fighting on their own to overthrow governments, led to Islamists seeking the co-operation of more secular and liberal groups also opposed to Arab police states. It is these popular front coalitions that have won victories in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya.
The New York Times reports on evidence gathered from the bombed ruins of Gaddafi’s intelligence headquarters in Tripoli that corroborates Belhaj’s account.
When Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, another member of the [Libyan Islamic Fighting G]roup, a [CIA] case officer wrote back on March 4, 2004, that “we are committed to developing this relationship for the benefit of both our services,” and promised to do their best to locate him.
Two days later, an officer faxed the Libyans to say that Mr. Sadiq and his pregnant wife were planning to fly into Malaysia, and the authorities there agreed to put them on a British Airways flight to London that would stop in Bangkok. “We are planning to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” the case officer wrote.
Mr. Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch said he had learned from the documents that Sadiq was a nom de guerre for Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who is now a military leader for the rebels.
In an interview [with The Independent — see above] on Wednesday, Mr. Belhaj gave a detailed description of his incarceration that matched many of those in the documents. He also said that when he was held in Bangkok he was tortured by two people from the C.I.A.
George Joffe writes:
Given Libya’s dramatic lack of political and administrative experience (the legacy of the baleful perfection of the Jamahiriyah, which punished dissent with death or imprisonment), and the parallel lack of civil society (eliminated over the years for identical reasons), it is almost impossible for Libya to ignore the accumulated experience of the previous regime.
Indeed, Mr Abdel Jalil himself, as president of the Council, is Libya’s former minister of justice and the commander of the East’s military forces. General Younis, who was killed at the end of July, had been the interior minister. Yet General Younis’ death was almost certainly a consequence of a widespread dislike and suspicion of former members of the Gaddafi regime within the insurgent movement.
The issue also highlights the tensions within the Council between different groups: Exiles against former members of the regime, Islamist militias suspicious of the military command, and tensions between the armed forces of the East and those of the West of the country. Mr Abdel Jalil has battled against these trends, it is true, but it is not clear how successful he has been and how coherent and competent the Council will be in handling its new responsibilities. Nonetheless, there are still many question marks about the immediate future that pro-Gaddafi forces may seek to exploit if they manage to regroup.
Yet against these concerns must be set the single staggering fact that, admittedly with NATO’s help but essentially with their own resources, Libya’s people have overthrown the regime that had oppressed them for decades. Unlike Tunisia, the regime was not capable of understanding its own loss of legitimacy and fought unsuccessfully to retain control. Unlike Egypt, there was no army as a national institution which, in the end, was prepared to force the regime to go. NATO’s help was vital in evening out the odds that the insurgents faced, but they were the ones who actually achieved what many thought at the beginning would be impossible.
It could be argued, therefore, that Libya, the country upon which its regional neighbors used to look with a pitying regret, perhaps even contempt, may turn out to be a paradigm of how liberty can and should be won against corrupting and violent dictatorship. In that respect, it finds its place alongside Tunisia as the unexpected and unanticipated examples of radical political change in the Arab world, in which it is North Africa that offers lessons to a Middle East that has been used to precisely the reverse!
Given that achievement, perhaps, the problems faced by the National Transitional Council can now be seen in a proper perspective.
Patrick Cockburn reports:
Yassin Bahr, a tall thin Senegalese in torn blue jeans, volubly denies that he was ever a mercenary or fought for Muammar Gaddafi.
Speaking in quick nervous sentences, Mr Bahr tries to convince a suspicious local militia leader in charge of the police station in the Faraj district of Tripoli, that he is a building worker who has been arrested simply because of his colour. “I liked Gaddafi, but I never fought for him,” Mr Bahr says, adding that he had worked in Libya for three years laying tiles.
But the Libyan rebels are hostile to black Africans in general. One of the militiamen, who have been in control of the police station since the police fled, said simply: “Libyan people don’t like people with dark skins, though some of them may be innocent.”
Going by Mr Bahr’s experience, any black African in Libya is open to summary arrest unless he can prove that he was not a member of Colonel Gaddafi’s forces.
Fathi, a building contractor who did not want to give his full name and was temporarily running the police station, wanted to know why Mr Bahr had a special residence permit that an immigrant worker would not normally obtain. “You must have been fighting for Gaddafi to have a permit like this,” he said. Mr Bahr said that three years earlier he had walked through the Sahara and crossed the Libyan border illegally with other West Africans looking for work. They had been picked up by the Libyan police, but he had eventually bribed them to get a residence permit. He had been watching television with nine other African immigrants when they were arrested, though no arms were found in the house.
Racism against black Africans and Libyans with dark skin has long simmered in Libya. Before the war there were estimated to be a million illegal immigrants in the country, which has a population of six million and a workforce of 1.7 million.
In 2000 there were anti-immigrant riots in which dozens of workers from countries like Ghana, Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Burkina Faso were killed. The war has deepened racial hostility. The rebels claim that many of Colonel Gaddafi’s soldiers were black African mercenaries. Amnesty International says these allegations are largely unproven and, from the beginning of the conflict, many of those arrested or, in some cases, executed by the rebels were undocumented labourers caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.