Two weeks after the death of Qaddafi and the wholesale rout of the last remnants of pro-regime fighters in Sirte there are major debates in Libya about the post-war resolution and how Libyan civil society can implement a new policy and practice on human rights.
The apparent mass murder of Qaddafi loyalists in one of the main hotels in Sirte points to violations which are not just about mopping up the remnants of fighting forces. The dead were prisoners or injured. A mass grave just outside of Qaddafi’ s compound in Tripoli indicates a mass execution of regime soldiers, many of whom had their hands tied behind their backs and had been subject to a single shot to the back of the head.
Other graves in the Gargur district and other parts of Tripoli point to the widespread use of mass murder by pro-regime forces. The dreaded Khamis brigade, led by Qaddafi’ s son, instituted a massacre of prisoners by burning down a compound and shooting into the camp. Certainly the regime’ s form on massacres, going back to the mass executions in the Abu Salim prison in the early 90s, and the public hangings of students in the 80s, point to the reality that Libya was on the verge of genocide before NATO intervention.
But the reprisal attacks by rebel (now government supporters) against the pro-regime town of Tawergha, many of whose citizens were involved in atrocities against the civilians of Misrata, are particularly unsavoury. Tawergha has been levelled and its population of 30,000 kicked into the desert and hunted by the Misrata brigades.
The National Transitional Council (NTC) has sent a pro-government force into the town of Hun 250 miles into the desert to protect the people of Tawergha from the potentially genocidal vengeance of the Misratans.
The NTC has released hundreds of regime loyalists from its prisons in celebration of Eid over the past few days but it is clearly worried about forces like the Misratan brigades who are not yet fully under their control and are prosecuting their own war supported by vast arms dumps left behind by Qaddafi’ s forces.
However, suspected mercenaries from Mali, Chad and Niger have not been released and there is a suspicion that they will go on trial in order to publicly cohere a new Libyan civil society against the old pro-Qaddafi foreigners. this might be an issue also for the Tawerghas, many of whom are the descendants of African slaves. This would be a hugely costly process for Libya’ s vast migrant and external workforce who were allowed no rights under the old regime.
The dismantling of the old official “trade union bureaucracy which did not offer rights to the migrant workforce should open the way for the representation of all workers and not just Libyan nationals. The rebels’ original stand against communalism and tribalism has to gain some substance if the minority populations of Libya are not to continue to be persecuted. A free media, the extensions of women’ s and workers’ rights, and the consolidation of the judiciary and civil society more generally make social justice for the persecuted minorities of Libya more possible.
The continuation of revenge and hostilities is what we would expect from the ebbing of a brutal civil war but it has to stop.
The united working class, of all peoples, sexualities and genders has to fight back against a Libya where tribalism and ultimately Islamism could one day be victorious.
Human rights abuses, the extension of Sharia law, extra-judicial killings and the persecution of minorities are an affront to a liberation movement which wanted to overthrow the trappings of despotism, not replicate them.