The Dark Side of the Libyan Rebels

By: Daniel Nardini

No, I am not for Muamar Gaddhafi. In my view he is a bloody dictator and a murderer who has been in power too long. How much suffering he has caused Libya and the Libyan people cannot be accurately calculated. In my view his departure from power or death would be welcome. But I have an important question for NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the U.S. government about the Libyan opposition, or rebels, fighting Gaddhafi. What do we know about these people? What do they want, and what do they really stand for? Many western newsmedia journalists who have extensively covered the Libyan Civil War from the rebel side seem to have painted them as “democratic-loving and brave freedom fighters.”

Who or whatever they may be, there is another side emerging about the Libyan rebels. The rebels, whose capital is Benghazi in the eastern half of Libya, are governed by what is called a Transitional National Council. Not as much covered in the U.S. newsmedia is the rumors that the rebels have been imprisoning and even executing people for suspected loyalty to Gaddhafi. The organization Human Rights Watch, based in the U.S., sent over representatives to learn what exactly is happening in rebel areas. Human Rights Watch has established three things. First, there is no rule of law in the rebels-held areas. All those who are being tried are being tried on mere hearsay. Second, confessions are frequently extracted by torture or other forms of coercion. Finally, suspects are not represented by any legal council.

While the battlefront remains fluid in the middle of Libya and in many Libyan towns and cities, Benghazi as a rebel stronghold is firmly established enough that there can be some semblance of civil order. Indeed, NATO and other western aid has been pouring into Benghazi. But it seems that legal aid and aid for the treatment of civilians held in detention as well as many prisoners of war is in serious doubt. Human Rights Watch interviewed what civilians and pro-Gaddhafi prisoners they could. Many have never had legal counsel, and a number of them showed signs of torture. These are things that are being widely suspected of what Gaddhafi and his government are doing, but not of the rebels.

It is true that in a civil war atrocities will be committed, and it is true that wrong and injustices will be committed by both sides. But it still begs for the question: who are the rebels and what do they want? There is no question that the U.S. government and NATO have committed themselves to aiding the rebels in just about every way possible to overthrow Gaddhafi. But we have to wonder if the opposition is really that much better and whether a carte blanche endorsement of these rebels is worth overthrowing Gaddhafi.

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