Vigilante NTC fighters from Misrata are conducting a campaign of abuse against their black neighbors from Tawergha. The town of 30,000 is now deserted with Misratans vowing residents will never return. The NTC has no control over the abuses committed.
UN Photo/OCHA / David Ohana
A Bangladeshi man waits at the immigration centre in Sallum, Egypt, near the border with Libya, as his passport is checked by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Bangladeshi embassy officials. He is among the thousands stranded in this border town after fleeing the ongoing crisis in Libya.
The brutal death meted out to Col. Gaddafi at the hands of a mob of Libyan National Transitional Council fighters has not satisfied the desire for vengeance amongst still armed NTC militias. Vigilante attacks are continuing against the displaced black Libyans from the devastated town of Tawergha which used to be home to 30,000 people. Armed fighters from Misrata are determined that no Tawerghans will be allowed to return, punishing the entire community for the actions of pro-Gaddafi Tawerghans in the civil war. The town is still burning as new arson attacks continue whilst the homes are looted.
Human Rights Watch (HMW) released a report on Sunday confirming Tawerghans are subject to arbitrary killings and torture. The abuse has spread to Tawerghans who were residents of Misrata and actually supported the anti-Gaddafi revolt. Racism, which was not an issue under the Gaddafi regime, has reared its ugly head with Tawerghan residents referred to as slaves due to their descent from Africans.
Racism is not restricted to the Tawerghans but to black migrant workers from sub-Saharan countries. Timereported “many others say they were captured by accident or targeted out of racism or xenophobia.”An Associated Press report points out that NTC officials have appealed for restraint but are unable to control their own fighters vigilante acts. HRW say that the NTC “should bring central command and control, as well as accountability, to the more than 100 armed groups from Misrata. Anyone abusing Tawerghans, or preventing their return, is committing a criminal offense.”HMW has documented some of the many atrocities committed by Misratans against Tawerghans. They include forcing an unarmed 80-year-old man from his home, beating to death a mentally ill man, torturing prisoners into false confessions and abusing prisoners held in detention. “Abuse included the use of electric shock and beatings, including beatings on the soles of the feet (falaga).”One detainee described his ordeal, saying “They beat me on my feet every night for 15 minutes, and some people hit my backside and my back. For four days I couldn’t sit. They poured cold water on top of me, then took an electric stick and put it on my shoulders, back, and arms each night for ten minutes. It shook me. I can’t describe it… They used an engine belt, a plastic hose, a wooden stick, a horse whip…. I had blood in my urine for four or five days.”Witnesses interviewed by HRW described how they “saw guards whip one dark-skinned Tawerghan detainee while forcing him to run around a courtyard and then telling him to climb a pole while shouting, ‘Monkey needs a banana.’”A member of the Misratan council said that fighters and guards have been told that abuses must stop but their demands are ignored. He said “They don’t respect orders. They do what they want.” Tawerghan refugees are frightened of falling into the hands of vigilantes who are actively hunting down Tawerghans.
Libya’s uprising and forced regime change has unleashed racist attacks that are out of control and ignored by NATO. British Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken this weekend of limiting oversees aid to countries which discriminate against homosexuals but ignores the racism in Libya, continuing to hand money over to the NTC which is totally lacking any authority to prevent human rights abuses committed under its watch. By failing to disarm fighters and sort out the abuses amidst its prison system the NTC must be seen as condoning events.