Have Qaddafi’s Abuses Been Exaggerated?

June 28th, 2011 at 11:22 am | 19 Comments |

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) decided to issue arrest warrants for Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam, and Abdullah Sanussi, the country’s intelligence chief, on Monday. The three men are wanted on charges of crimes against humanity for their roles in attacks on civilians – including peaceful demonstrators – in Tripoli, Benghazi, Misrata, and other Libyan towns.

While Western governments and the international media have seized the ICC indictment as a much-needed show of moral support for NATO’s controversial / fledgling military campaign, two of the world’s leading human rights organization – Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – have just announced that their independent, on-the-ground investigations found no credible evidence for the claim that Col. Qaddafi’s forces have used mass rape as a weapon of war. The NGO investigation did reveal that the rebels in Benghazi have repeatedly and knowingly made false claims or manufactured evidence – essentially to bolster their PR case against Col. Qaddafi.

According to Donatella Rovera, the Arabic-speaking senior crisis response adviser for Amnesty, who was in Libya for three months after the start of the uprising, “we have not found any evidence or a single victim of rape, or a doctor who knew about somebody being raped”. She stresses this does not prove that mass rape did not occur, but there is no evidence to show that it did. Liesel Gerntholtz, head of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, which also investigated the charge of mass rape, said: “We have not been able to find evidence.”

According to Amnesty International, the same lack of evidence applies to the widespread allegation that Col. Qaddafi distributed large quantities of Viagra to his troops to send them on a mass rape rampage. A few weeks ago, the French government-sponsored TV5 news channel featured a report about this topic as part of their prime-time evening news coverage. TV5’s unnamed sources said a ship full of Viagra bound for Tripoli had in fact just been interdicted off the coast of Libya. The story was never substantiated.

Furthermore, Amnesty’s Rovera rejected repeated claims made by the Libyan rebels that Col. Qaddafi was using mercenary troops from Central and West Africa. “Those [men] shown to journalists as foreign mercenaries were later quietly released,” said Rovera. “Most were sub-Saharan migrants working in Libya without documents.”

Finally, the Amnesty investigation failed to find any evidence that aircraft or heavy anti-aircraft machine guns were used against protesters and crowds. While the Qaddafi regime certainly had a history of brutally repressing its opponents, there was no question of “genocide” happening in Libya.

While shocking at first glance, these latest revelations by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch should not come as a surprise to anyone. As the Ancient Greek playwright and soldier Aeschylus already noted back in the 5th century B.C.:

“In war, truth is the first casualty”.

Democratically elected Western governments have repeatedly relied on “political misinformation campaigns” – modern shorthand for old-style propaganda – to further their cause, notably to make the case for direct military interventions to fight against alleged mass murderers and human rights violators. During the 1999 Kosovo conflict, Serb forces loyal to President Slobodan Milosevic were accused by Western leaders, among them U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen, of having potentially murdered up to 100,000 military-age men. However, after the war was over, no credible evidence was found to back up this staggering number.

In the wake of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein’s forces were accused of removing premature Kuwaiti babies from incubators, taking the incubators, and leaving the babies “on the cold floor” to die. These shocking charges, first made during now-infamous “Nayirah testimony” given before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in October 1990, were not only widely circulated in the international media but also repeatedly cited by U.S. political leaders (including President George H.W. Bush) as a justification to launch “Operation Desert Storm.” After the 1991 Gulf War was over, it turned out that the false testimony by “Nayirah” (who happened to be the teenage daughter of Saud bin Nasir Al-Sabah, the then-Kuwaiti ambassador in Washington) was part of an elaborate propaganda campaign devised by public relations firm Hill & Knowlton and financed by the Kuwaiti government through a front group called “Citizens for a Free Kuwait”.

It is unfortunate that Western media have a tendency to willingly jump on the propaganda bandwagon, often taking sensationalist allegations at face value – without any efforts aimed at substantiation or verification.

As the much-respected International Crisis Group (ICG) wrote in its June 6th report titled “Making Sense of Libya”:

At the same time, much Western media coverage has from the outset presented a very one-sided view of the logic of events, portraying the protest movement as entirely peaceful and repeatedly suggesting that the regime’s security forces were unaccountably massacring unarmed demonstrators who presented no real security challenge. This version would appear to ignore evidence that the protest movement exhibited a violent aspect from very early on.

While there is no doubt that many and quite probably a large majority of the people mobilized in the early demonstrations were indeed intent on demonstrating peacefully, there is also evidence that, as the regime claimed, the demonstrations were infiltrated by violent elements. Likewise, there are grounds for questioning the more sensational reports that the regime was using its air force to slaughter demonstrators, let alone engaging in anything remotely warranting use of the term “genocide”.

Recent Posts by Ulf Gartzke

19 Comments so far ↓

  • pnumi2

    How else do you expect the first world nations to appoint their approved staraps to high office in this oil producing country, without first discrediting their current leadership?

  • Frumplestiltskin

    What a horseshit article. Rape is highly stigmitized in Libya, women who report it are shunned. This author can’t be truly so naive as to think these Libyan soldiers are not raping civilians.
    It is indisputable that Gadhafi randomly shells into civilian towns, killing whoever is so unfortunate as to be in the vicinity. He was going to mass slaughter the civilians in Benghazi.

    I have seen video from Tripoli of pickup trucks ferrying mercenaries, a whole caravan of them. The occupants were certainly subsaharan Africans toting machine guns. Now I can’t be sure that some of these blacks are not, in fact, Libyan, but no way in hell were these caravans full of black Libyans. I have also seen id’s from these mercenaries who have been killed in battle.

    And what the hell does Iraq have to do with this? The evidence of Gadhafi troops atrocities are overwhelming, people have camera phones and we have youtube. I have seen these videos from Misrata and from the Nafusa mountains, these are things that simply did not exist 20 years ago.

    what a truly ridiculous article. Oh, and recycling that thousands of years cliche about war and truth, that was just sad and pathetically lazy writing as though by simply stating it you need not do any research yourself.

    I can provide a thousand videos and articles from within Libya that contradict the author, but I guess I should imagine that these videos are somehow staged, that we have a country full of George Romeros.

    • Carney

      Well put, Frumple.

      • Nanotek

        + 1

        • Traveler

          As a regular reader of the myriad AJE Libyan blogs, many of which written by those actually there, I find this article breathtaking in its inaccuracy. You read of experiences at first or second hand, well before it being reported in the MSM. BBC finally caught up with reality and had a series of interviews with doctors and victims of this supposed “charade”. The issue of honor killing is totally painful to comprehend. And then you add in the use of snipers to pick off civilians in Misrata, the wholesale shelling and rocketing of civilian areas, and Amnesty comes up with this BS? Guess who is being politically correct now?

          The Germans were caught with their pants down on this one, and desperately look for excuses. Kind of reminds me of republicans in the House. Anything to support their perspective, truth be damned.

          Edit: Wait till more cell phone footage comes out. The stuff leaked out so far is disgusting.

  • nuser

    He is so unappetizing. Oh, yuck!

  • pnumi2

    Actually, the most outrageous exaggeration to come out of the Middle East is the size of Saudi Arabia’s ‘proven’ oil reserves. Sorry guys.

    • Traveler

      I have been following your posts on this topic and frankly, I’d like to hear more. Your perspectives are quite penetrating (usually). We sure are in for some interesting times. Lots of other peaks going on too, like peak water and peak phosphorus. I could elaborate on them but no time.

  • From “Making Sense Of Libya,” and other Libya links | Alas, a Blog

    [...] Qaddafi’s brutalities. This passage was also quoted on FrumForum, in a post entitled Have Qaddafi’s Abuses Been Exaggerated?; FrumForum also cited reports from Amnesty and Human Rights [...]

  • pnumi2


    I apologize for being flip about what I refered to the ‘appointing ‘ of satraps in those nations which supply the world with oil. Whether or not Nouri al-Maliki really opposes the U.S. on certain issues or if it is just posturing on his part to an electorate which can not have much to love about America, I can’t say.

    I believe we should all have a little knowledge about a point in time called ‘peak oil.’ This is when all the existing wells on the planet plus all the NEW wells can not produce the same amount of oils as was produced the the previous year. The good news here is that “peak oil” does not fall off like a bell jar curve. It is much more gradual.

    Of course, it is in the interest of the oil producing nations and the oil consuming nations to keep from public knowledge the exact inventory of the world’s supplies.

    Start by reading these two articles:


    Google M. King Hubbert and read the several articles about him. And you will know more about peak oil than I do.

    • pnumi2


      I hope I wasn’t too curt earlier. If you’re still around I’d lbe happy to tell you what I think about ‘peak oil’. If not, I’ll look for you elsewhere and try to remind you then. It’s pretty nuts.

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