Glenn Greenwald had a good story yesterday about continuing human rights abuses in Libya, and how you cannot justify interventions on “humanitarian” grounds without being concerned about what you leave behind. There’s more indication of that today with this ugly situation described by Doctors Without Borders:
Doctors Without Borders has suspended its work in prisons in the Libyan city of Misrata because it said torture was so rampant that some detainees were brought for care only to make them fit for further interrogation, the group said Thursday [...]
The allegations, which come more than three months after former leader Moammar Gadhafi was captured and killed, were an embarrassment to the governing National Transitional Council, which is struggling to establish its authority in the divided nation.
Doctors Without Borders said that since August, its medical teams have treated 115 people in Misrata who bore torture-related wounds, including cigarette burns, heavy bruising, bone fractures, tissue burns from electric shocks and kidney failure from beatings. Two detainees died after being interrogated, the group’s general director said.
“Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable,” MSF general director Christopher Stokes said in a statement. “Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions.”
So you have torture and murder happening to detainees in Libya. And the dynamic of beating a prisoner, sending him to a human rights organization for treatment, only so he recuperates enough to beat him again, is quite medieval. And remember that a lot of this mistreatment comes against not only Gadhafi loyalists fighting in the civil war, but sub-Saharan black Africans “suspected” of collaboration with Gadhafi. There’s a racial component to this that almost certainly means innocent victims are being tortured and abused.
The Transitional National Council will probably disavow control over militias in Misrata, or something, to justify this, although we are months out from the end of the war, so you’d think they’d have ample time to root this out. This speaks to a larger problem of factionalism and a lack of control from the revolutionary forces once they stopped uniting against a common enemy. The flare-ups of violence against the government in the stronghold of Benghazi and the Gadhafi loyalist takeover of Bani Walid in recent weeks are both testaments to this.
To be sure, torture was in all likelihood part of the landscape in Libya under Gadhafi. But the idea that you can frame the Libyan intervention as a “human rights victory” just doesn’t match reality. You have different people being abused and tortured, but no end to the actions themselves.
Britain has put out statements condemning the torture and expressing “concern.” They should look inward and reckon with themselves about the forces they helped to unleash in Libya.