How Many Tawarghas?

The UN International Commission of Inquiry on Libya’s report is out today, and the NY Times reports that, while it identified plenty of war crimes perpetrated by the Gadaffi regime, as well as some indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets by NATO airstrikes, the opposition’s runaway militias are still conducting their abuses.

Militia members continued through January 2012 with the mass arrests of former soldiers, police officers, suspected mercenaries and others perceived to be Qaddafi loyalists, the report said. Certain revenge attacks have continued unabated, particularly the campaign by the militiamen of Misurata to wipe the neighboring town of Tawergha off the map, accusing its residents of collaborating with a government siege.

Such attacks have been documented before, but the report stressed that despite prior criticism the militiamen continue to hunt down the residents of the neighboring town no matter where they have fled across Libya. As recently as Feb. 6, militiamen from Misurata attacked a camp in Tripoli where residents of Tawergha had fled, killing an old man, a woman and three children, the report said.

The commission remains ”œdeeply concerned” that no independent investigations nor prosecutions appear to have been instigated into killings by such militias, the report said.

Tawergha used to have a population of 30,000, now it’s zero. In September of last year, Amnesty reported on systematic reprisals against the inhabitants of the town no matter where they had fled.

On 29 August, Amnesty delegates saw a Tawargha patient at the Tripoli Central Hospital being taken by three men, one of them armed, for “questioning in Misratah”. The men had no arrest warrant. Amnesty was also told that at least two other Tawargha men had vanished after being taken for questioning from Tripoli hospitals.

One 45-year-old flight dispatcher and his uncle were arrested by armed thuwwar while out shopping in the al-Firnaj area of Tripoli on 28 August. They were taken to the Military Council headquarters at Mitiga Airport just east of the capital. The men told Amnesty they were beaten with the butt of a rifle and received death threats. Both were held for several days in Mitiga and are still detained in Tripoli.

Even in the camps, the Tawarghas are not safe. Towards the end of last month, a group of armed men drove into the camp and arrested about 14 men. Amnesty spoke to some of their relatives; none knew of their fate or whereabouts. Another woman at the camp said her husband has been missing since he left the camp to run an errand in central Tripoli, about a week ago. She fears he might be have been detained.

One woman, who has been living in the camp with her husband and five children for about a week, told Amnesty that she was terrified of going home:

“If we go back to Tawargha, we will then be at the mercy of the Misratah thuwwar.

“When the thuwwar entered our town in mid-Ramadan [mid-August] and shelled it, we fled just carrying the clothes on our backs. I don’t know what happened to our homes and belongings. Now I am here in this camp, my son is ill and I am too afraid to go to the hospital in town. I don’t know what will happen to us now.”

Now those who advocated intervention in Libya are doing the same for Syria, often with plans that don’t pass the most basic smell test. They should be asked how many Tawarghas they are willing to contemplate before they would back off from throwing military force at problems without contemplating the aftermaths.

Update Via @skyallred:

A shocking video has appeared on the Internet showing Libyan rebels torturing a group of black Africans. People with their hands bound are shown being locked in a zoo-like cage and allegedly forced to eat the old Libyan flag.

­”œEat the flag, you dog. Patience you dog, patience. God is Great,” screams a voice off-camera in the video uploaded to YouTube last week, which also made its way onto

The torturers are also shown making the group of captive black Africans stand up with pieces of green cloth still in their mouths and apparently forcing them start jumping.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

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