Rights Group: Libya Rebels Attacking Civilians

The anti-government forces are supposed to be protecting citizens, not harming them, says Human Rights Watch.

Posted: 07/14/2011 04:55 PM EDT
Filed Under Libya, Moammar Gadhafi

Rights Group: Libya Rebels Attacking Civilians

Instead of protecting civilians against the government’s harsh arm, some Libyan rebels are wreaking havoc in the towns they’ve recently gained control of according to the Human Rights Watch.


Some anti-government forces, who garnered international support for their efforts to topple notorious Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi earlier this year, have been behind looting, arson and the beating of civilians in the areas they recently captured.


Representatives from the rights organization say they’ve witnessed such acts and are calling on leaders within the ranks to put an end to it immediately.


“Opposition leaders should halt and punish all rebel abuses,” said the organization’s deputy Middle East and North Africa director, Joe Stork. “The rebel authorities have a duty to protect civilians and their property, especially hospitals, and discipline anyone responsible for looting or other abuse.”


Many of the towns where the alleged abuses are taking place—al-Awaniya, Zawiyat al-Bagul, al-Qawa, al-Awaniya and Zawiyat al-Bagul—are places with a significant number of pro-government supporters.


"This raises concerns about how civilians will be treated if rebels capture other towns where the government has support," Stork said.


A rebel commander admitted to Human Rights Watch that there were indeed attacks against civilians by his forces. He added that violence against civilians or their property was against orders and that the perpetrators had been dealt with, though he didn’t elaborate, the report said.


He also said that some residents that stayed in the towns they occupied were working with the government.


"Houses that were robbed and broken into were ones that the army had used, including for ammunition storage. Those people who were beaten were working for Gadhafi's brigades," he said.


The Human Rights Watch has been documenting the alleged abuses over the last two months.


(Photo: Anis Mili/Landov)