Torture, show trials common in neocolonial Libya

A video released last week showing the beating and torture of Saadi Gadhafi is not an anomaly in contemporary Libya where the Pentagon and NATO waged a war of regime change in 2011.

Gadhafi, a former football player in Europe, was shown tied up and being struck across the face and head. Sounds of other inmates being tortured could be heard during the violent interrogation process.

Later Gadhafi’s feet were placed in a metal grip and the soles were struck repeatedly. Gadhafi was blindfolded during the torture, conducted by several uniformed men.

This stark illustration of life under the neocolonial rebels in Libya is a direct result of the war initiated four years ago in the eastern city of Benghazi.

The situation is aggravated by the lack of any consistent legal, judicial or political system. Various militias, which were armed and funded by the U.S. and NATO, still patrol cities, towns and villages, harassing, robbing, accosting and murdering civilians.

Due to the social and economic impact of the war, Libya is totally incapable of addressing the burgeoning migration crisis. Thousands of African, Middle Eastern and Asian migrants have died this year off the coast of North Africa in the Mediterranean.

Human traffickers lure and load migrants onto rickety vessels in an often tragic quest for asylum in Europe. The currently divided regimes and militias in Libya either lack the capacity to halt this practice or are profiting from this human tragedy.

State of lawlessness, deprivation

Several high-level officials of the ousted Jamahiriya government under Moammar Gadhafi have been sentenced to death by a court system that has no credibility in regard to due process.

A highly questionable Libyan court on July 28 sentenced Moammar Gadhafi’s heir apparent and son, Saif al-Islam, and eight others to death over alleged war crimes. These included killing protesters during the 2011 counterrevolution that was funded and coordinated by the imperialist countries and their allies.

These former officials, including intelligence director Abdullah al-Senussi and prime minister Baghdadi al-­Mahmoudi, were sentenced to execution by firing squad.

The legal proceedings were not subject to transparency, so there is no indication what real evidence was presented against the defendants. Thousands of former government officials and supporters have been locked in camps and prisons for the last four years.

The current regime, ostensibly in control of the capital of Tripoli, is backed up by the Libya Dawn militia emanating from Misrata, where some of the most violent and racist rebels were based during the 2011 war. Another regime recognized by the imperialist states is headquartered at a hotel in the eastern city of Tobruk.

Although al-Islam was sentenced by a court in Tripoli, he was not present during the hearing. He is being held by another militia in Zintan.

Even Human Rights Watch has spoken out against the show trials, convictions and sentencings. They said virtually nothing during the imperialist war against Libya in 2011 — when nearly 10,000 bombs were dropped and militias carried out indiscriminate attacks resulting in 50,000 to 100,000 deaths.

Joe Stork, HRW’s deputy director for North Africa and the Middle East, told Reuters, “There are serious questions about whether judges and prosecutors can be truly independent where utter lawlessness prevails and certain groups are unashamedly shielded from justice. This trial was held in the midst of an armed conflict and a country divided by war where impunity has become the norm.” (July 28)

The Hague-based ­International Criminal Court had filed charges against Moammar Gadhafi, al-Islam and al-Senussi as the Libyan people defended their country against the imperialist onslaught. Later in 2013 the ICC granted the Libyan rebels the right to prosecute the former government officials, despite their utter failure to demonstrate the capacity to conduct such a highly politicized trial.

Libya, once the most prosperous state in Africa, has fallen into economic decline since the war. The enormous oil reserves in the country are now a source of conflict among the various militia groups.

Unemployment and poverty are widespread, while women, migrants and people of Muslim and Christian communities face beatings, bombings and murder. Neighboring states, such as Tunisia and Egypt, have closed border crossings and are engaged in military efforts against the rising presence of the Islamic State and other rebel organizations.

Pro-Gadhafi demonstrations held in Benghazi

Meanwhile, a pro-Gadhafi demonstration was held on Aug. 4 in Benghazi, the birthplace of the 2011 counterrevolution. This protest was broken up immediately, with gunfire scattering the crowd.

The Guardian reported that “such is the despair with the [counter-]revolution, in the past few days small numbers of Libyans have demonstrated in several cities, including Benghazi, holding up pictures of Saif and chanting: ‘Zintan, Zintan, free Saif al-Islam.’” (Aug. 5)

Given the repressive atmosphere ­inside the country, this is a rare occurrence indeed.

Supporters of the former government have been banned from involvement in political activity. Efforts to rehabilitate the image of the rebel regimes have failed, and even officials of the imperialist states that overthrew Gadhafi have been forced to acknowledge the chaos prevailing since 2011.

U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and several CIA operatives were killed in an attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi in September 2012. Although she is currently running for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who played a pivotal role in the war, has never been seriously questioned about her role in Gadhafi’s overthrow and assassination. Questions also linger over the attacks on the compound and what Clinton actually knew about the incident.

More negotiations planned

The United Nations is convening a new round of talks attempting to stabilize the chaotic situation by bringing together the divided rebel groups that were empowered by the U.S. and NATO.

These talks, the latest in a series of failed efforts, were scheduled to begin Aug. 10. Difficulties arose even before the negotiations could begin.

The Latin American Herald Tribune reported, “The United Nations confirmed on [Aug. 10] that negotiations between rival Libyan political factions, which were scheduled to start in Geneva on Monday, have been postponed until Tuesday, according to a U.N. spokesperson in Geneva. In a related development, the U.N. special representative and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, Bernardino Leon, has not yet arrived in Geneva.”

The Aug. 10 article continues, “Neither of the Libyan political delegations, each from its own autonomous government, has arrived in Geneva, while it is unclear if they are still willing to participate in peace talks. The new round of negotiations was announced last week following a series of consultations conducted by Leon with representatives of the main Libyan factions, while around 30 delegates were expected to participate.”

There can be no resolution to the Libyan quagmire until the people are united under a political program designed to place the country back on a trajectory of national sovereignty and anti-imperialism. The Western imperialist states that destroyed Libya cannot put the country back together. This enormous task can only be carried out by the people of Libya themselves, in solidarity and unity with other progressive forces throughout the region.