Mounting Evidence of Rebel Atrocities in Libya
Video clips depict summary executions, lynching of an alleged mercenary and a beheading. Black African prisoners are singled out for abuse.
April 20, 2011 - 11:30 am
While the International Criminal Court has announced that it is investigating charges of war crimes against Muammar al-Gaddafi and other members of the Libyan regime, harrowing video evidence has emerged that appears to show atrocities committed by anti-Gaddafi rebels. Among other things, the footage depicts summary executions, a prisoner being lynched, the desecration of corpses, and even a beheading. The targets of the most serious abuse are frequently black African prisoners. The ultimate source of the footage appears to be rebel forces or sympathizers themselves.
(Warning: Due to the graphic nature of the videos linked below, viewer discretion is advised.)
What is probably the most harrowing of the clips depicts a public beheading. A man with a long knife can be seen alternately sawing and hacking at the neck of a man who has been suspended upside-down. The victim’s inert body is soaked in blood. The beheading takes place in front of a burnt-out building in what appears to be a public square. The Dutch public broadcaster NOS has identified the location as the main square of the rebel capital of Benghazi.
A crowd numbering at least in the hundreds cheers on the assailants. At one point, a man begins chanting “Libya Hurra!”: “Free Libya!” According to the NOS translation, someone can be heard saying, “He looks like an African.” As the principal assailant begins to saw at the victim’s neck, members of the crowd yell “Allahu Akbar!” Dozens of members of the crowd can be seen filming the proceedings with digital cameras or cell phones. (See clip #1 here or here.)
A second clip depicts a black African prisoner being aggressively questioned and beaten. The man is alleged to be a pro-Gaddafi mercenary. Extracts from the footage have been broadcast on both the Libyan state television Al-Libya and on Al-Jazeera. More complete “raw footage,” which is available on YouTube, shows the beating continuing even after the man is lying face down on the ground, the surrounding concrete splattered with his blood. By way of photographs and identity papers, a video from an unknown source on YouTube identifies the victim as a Libyan citizen and a regular member of the Libyan army. (See clip #2 here.)
Similar footage of rebels demanding a confession from an alleged black African mercenary has also been shown on Western television. It should be noted that even just the mere exposure of a prisoner to “public curiosity” constitutes a violation of the Geneva Conventions – to say nothing of acts of intimidation and abuse or the outright lynching that appears to be documented in the above clip.
A third clip shows a group of prisoners being questioned by an interrogator. Several of the prisoners are wearing army uniforms. A rough English translation has been added to a posting of the clip on YouTube. According to the translation, the interrogator appears to accuse members of the group of having opened fire on civilians. The prisoners insist that they were fired upon and that they only opened fire in self-defense.
As in other clips, a black prisoner is singled out for particular abuse. Barking out accusations, the interrogator hovers over him with what appears to be a sort of machete in his hand. In a later shot, what appears to be the same group of men is seen lying on the ground in pools of blood. Their eyes have been bound and they appear to have been shot in the back of the head. Persons walking among the corpses can be heard shouting “Allahu Akbar!” The footage was shown on a broadcast on Al-Libya television. But the “raw footage” and other apparently related footage is also available on YouTube. The actual shooting of the prisoners is not shown. (See clip #3 here or here.)
In a fourth clip, men can be seen holding up what appears to be charred human remains to the cheers of an assembled crowd. As in the beheading video, numerous members of the crowd can be seen filming the proceedings on digital cameras and cell phones. One of the “presenters” waves the red, black, and green flag of the Libyan rebellion. So too does a member of the crowd. A second group, again waving the flag of the rebellion, can later be seen parading around what appears to be the same remains on a rooftop. A smaller clump of carbonized matter receives particular attention from the revelers. According to one posting on YouTube, the object in question is the victim’s heart. (See clip #4 here.)
A fifth clip shows two black African prisoners who have been tightly bound from head to foot. Online postings suggest that they were captured by rebels in Misrata: a western Libyan city that was conquered by the rebels near the outset of the rebellion and that is presently the scene of heavy fighting. One of the men appears to be badly wounded; the other whimpers as he attempts in vain to wriggle free from his bindings. (See clip #5 here or here.)
Several other clips, which are available on YouTube, show the corpses of black Africans being publicly displayed and kicked and otherwise abused by “protestors.”
At first glance, it might seem odd that the rebels would document their own atrocities. But given all the indications that the eastern Libyan heartland of the rebellion is a bastion of jihadist militancy, it is in fact not so odd. It is standard jihadist procedure to film beheadings and other sorts of atrocities committed against captured enemy soldiers and hostages.