Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Payback Time in Libya


The detention of 7,000 people in prisons and camps by the anti-Gaddafi forces is not surprising. The conflict in Libya was always much more of a civil war between Libyans than foreign governments pretended or the foreign media reported.

The winning anti-Gaddafi militia are not proving merciful. Often they have had relatives killed in the fighting or imprisoned by the old regime who they want to avenge. Sometimes they come from tribes and towns traditionally hostile to neighboring tribes and towns. Gaddafi supporters are being hunted down. According to one person in Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte, they are facing a “continuing reign of terror”.

“There is a deep and spreading frenzy, particularly among some of the youth militia and the Islamists, to hunt down anyone associated with the former regime,” this person said.

The National Transitional Council, whose control is largely theoretical, is not in a position to stop this purge because many of its members are themselves frightened of being accused of links with the old regime.

Some groups are particularly vulnerable. The then-rebels were convinced earlier this year that many of those they were fighting were mercenaries recruited in Central or West Africa. But when these alleged “mercenaries” were arrested in Tripoli, many turned out to be black migrant laborers without identity papers.

According to Amnesty International, some of those who were put on television by the rebels as mercenaries were later quietly freed because they were migrant workers. Others faced mob justice before they were able to prove their identities.

The international media were overwhelmingly hostile to Gaddafi’s regime and tended to highlight atrocities committed by it and disregard or underplay human rights violations carried out by his opponents. An example of this occurred when eight or nine bodies of Libyan soldiers were found who appeared to have been executed. The rebels claimed they had been shot by Gaddafi’s men because they tried to change sides. But Amnesty located a film of the soldiers being captured alive by the rebels and it was presumably the rebels who killed them.

The purge of Gaddafi supporters is made more dangerous by the infighting between the militias, and between them and the politicians. Association with the old regime can be used to discredit an opponent. There may also be self-interest since death squads are reported to be taking their property.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Rob Urie
Name the Dangerous Candidate
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Neve Gordon
Israel’s Boycott Hypocrisy
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Victor Wallis
On the Stealing of U.S. Elections
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Stanley L. Cohen
Equality and Justice for All, It Seems, But Palestinians
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Sheldon Richman
Come and See the Anarchy Inherent in the System
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Joseph Natoli
Seething Anger in the Post-2016 Election Season
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Uri Avnery
The Peres Funeral Ruckus
Tom Clifford
Duterte’s Gambit: the Philippines’s Pivot to China
Reyes Mata III
Scaling Camelot’s Walls: an Essay Regarding Donald Trump
Raouf Halaby
Away from the Fray: From Election Frenzy to an Interlude in Paradise
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
David Yearsley
Trump and Hitchcock in the Age of Conspiracies
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”