Today Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports on the arbitrary detention of black-skinned people in Tripoli.
HRW is one of the members of the “Responsibility to Protect coalition” and has been slow to condemn the racist atrocities of the Libyan rebellion and has little to say about the bombing of civilians by NATO in places like Zlitan.
HRW is not to be confused with Human Rights Investigations (HRI) which opposes the NATO bombing, supporting the African Union position on Libya and has worked to expose the racial element to the conflict
The HRW article contains evidence of black Libyans and sub-Saharan guest workers being abused in Tripoli, which have already been widely reported, as well as hopes for an “embryonic legal system” in Tripoli.
VIDEO SHOWS DEAD BODIES:
HRW witnessed black men being taken into the Bab al-Bahr football club – but weren’t allowed by the commander to see what was happening inside. The commander claimed the detainees were all “foreign fighters” but their families were outside complaining and the four they were allowed to interview who were apparently being released were elderly Libyans.
HRW also found black people – a mixture of black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans - detained in other places around Tripoli including the Maftuah prison in the Fernaj neighborhood, (300 detainees on September 1 including wounded). In this prison HRW described the conditions for Libyan detainees as acceptable, but
“the sub-Saharan Africans were in overcrowded cells with a putrid stench; one cell had 26 people and six mattresses and the African men complained of inadequate water, poor sanitation and not being allowed to make phone calls to ask family members to bring their documents.”
At a school in the Intisar neighborhood, 76 detainees incuding 3 women were found on September 1. About half of the detainees appeared to be sub-Saharan Africans, the remaineder being Libyans accused of having fought for Gaddafi. HRW saw the prisoners being prepared for transfer to the Mitiga air base.
One of the detainees, a 25 year old from Mali, was arrested at his house and complained that:
At about 10 p.m. a big group of Libyans came with the owner of the building. They tied us up, took all of our passports and possessions, and beat us. They brought us to a big mosque in the neighborhood, and then they went to other African houses and arrested them. In the end, they had more than 200 Africans in there. Then they put us on vehicles and took us around town shouting “Allahu Akhbar!” [“God is great”] and saying we were mercenaries they had captured.
HRW also visited Nigerian families at Girgarish, and one of the men, a carpenter, complained:
“I’m from Abu Salim, but our lives are not safe there because they say we’re mercenaries, they regard all black men as mercenaries.”
The HRW article contains new incendiary allegations of the use of “African mercenaries” (similar to the earlier allegations which Amnesty researchers found to be largely unfounded and which led to so many deaths).
According to the Article 47 of the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977 the definition of a mercenary is as follows:
2. A mercenary is any person who:
a) is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
b) does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities;
c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;
d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;
e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and
f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.
To be clear – all the above have to apply for someone to be considered a mercenary. Others apply even more stringent conditions and the security guards employed by the Americans in Iraq, Gurkhas employed by the British etc are not described as mercenaries.
All human rights organisations should focus on protecting black people in Tripoli, rather than their own institutional interests. We agree with Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch who states:
“It’s a dangerous time to be dark-skinned in Tripoli,
“The NTC should stop arresting African migrants and black Libyans unless it has concrete evidence of criminal activity. It should also take immediate steps to protect them from violence and abuse.”