News / Middle East

Libya Rebel Leader Appeals Against Reprisals as Massacre Sites Found

Mahmoud Jibril, leader of the Transitional Council (file)
Mahmoud Jibril, leader of the Transitional Council (file)
James Brooke

A rebel leader is asking Libyans not to take revenge as worry mounts over massacre sites.  

One week ago, the metal warehouse was a makeshift prison for enemies of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi now it is a death house containing about 50 scorched skeletons.  Outside, another eight bodies lie on the grass, one with his hands tied behind his back.

This horror scene is in a compound, which was controlled until Tuesday by the Khamis brigade, an elite neighborhood controlled by Colonel Gadhafi’s son, Khamis.  A survivor said that, as rebel forces approached, the Gadhafi soldiers shot their prisoners, and then tried to burn the bodies.

Almost daily, other massacre sites are appearing around Tripoli.

On Sunday, Mahmoud Jibril, leader of the Transitional Council, went on Libyan national television to ask Libyans not to take revenge. He said, "Don't seek revenge, or attack private properties, or hurt foreigners, or treat prisoners of war badly.”  He promised every prisoner would receive a fair trial.

Libya analyst Peter Cole says this anti-reprisal policy is a cornerstone of the Transition Council, which now controls about 90 percent of Libya’s population.

“They have been stressing this idea of, ‘Do not go out, do not kill, do not try to seek retribution for someone who might have informed on your family, someone who you might think is pro-Gadhafi, do not take matters into your own hands," he said.  "Let us do this.”

But this tolerance is being tested as Libya’s newly unfettered media reports on atrocities linked to Gadhafi forces.

On Sunday, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch said it had documented two additional mass executions.  In these cases, a total of 35 bodies were found in or around a Libyan internal security building.

Human Rights Watch Regional Director Sarah Leah Whitson says evidence strongly suggests Gadhafi government forces went on a campaign of arbitrary killing as Tripoli was falling.

For Cole, this may not shake widespread support for the no-reprisal policy.

“For the rebels at least, it is no surprise to them that [Gadhafi] security police would do some quite nasty stuff,” he said.

Cole predicted the massacre reports would not make for a ‘game changing’ psychological shift.

But a new test looms.  Hundreds, possibly thousands of Gadhafi’s political prisoners, may be missing.

Transitional Council spokesman Shams al-Din Ben Ali told Al-Jazeera television that of 57,000 people arrested in recent months by Gadhafi forces, 45,000 have not been accounted for.

He feared that many prisoners may have been abandoned days ago without food or water in underground prisons hidden around Tripoli.  He appealed to prison guards to telephone authorities and to tell them where to find the secret prisons.

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