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Monday, December 31, 2012

Shed Massacre Trial, part two

December 30, 2012
last edits, Dec. 31, 2:35 AM(Pacific)
See Part one

The Captive Soldiers
The nine named men awaiting trial for the Khamis Brigade Shed Massacre, as announced by the Libya Herald, are largely know to us by name from previous study. They weren't necessarily all guards or commander at the Yarmouk alleged prison shed. Rather, they were part of an overall team that ran that plus another compound quite nearby at Qasr Ben Ghashir, at the facility here called "the Slovenian company." The alleged massacre there at about the same time as the shed massacre is at least as bizarre, having three different official dates given so far, for one thing, and approximately five prisoners killed, and 70 escaped when they suddenly realized they could let themselves out of their cells.
- The Tripoli Massacres: Killings at Qasr Ben Ghashir
- See also A Question Mark Over Yarmouk (QMOY, PDF link), section 1.4, pp 20-31.

So ... the four men accused over that smaller alleged incident are to go up in the dock second, on January 8. Two days before, the five tagged for atrocities at the larger site have their turn. A high-level commander is named in the lesser case, and in his own separate military tribunal. Let's take a look now at the men named and, more importantly, a couple who were not mentioned.

The main source for about 50% of the info we have previously collected is an amazingly useful piece by Robert F. Worth, New York Times, May 2012. This was based on visits to rebel-held prisoners in Tripoli and the Western Mountains (but not Misrata), who stood accused of the atrocity he had earlier written about. (side-note: in that, I suspect, he was advised by Dr. Salem Al-Farjani, under yet another pseudonym: see QMOY p. 88)

Jan. 6 Trial:
Yakhlif Sifawi, Abdul-Razak Baruni, Juma Daqdouq and Mohamed Harous

Mohammed Harous and Yakhlif Sifawi are new names to me. We have nothing to add, unless Mohammed is the same one mentioned by alleged escapee M.M. Zedan: “someone called Ibrahim Tajouri came, with him another one called Mohamed from Abou Salim and some Tuaregs…” (QMOY p. 76) A "Jumaa" was seen on supposed loyalist torture videos by Worth, made to dance in such a way the rebels always busted up when they saw it. The family name Daqdouq is new. Although it wasn't specified by Worth, I wonder if he's a Black Libyan of sub-Saharan descent. (open questions to Mr. Worth - is either hunch so far ventured correct?)

Abdul-Razaq Barouni is a special case. In a couple variegated names, he’s been hailed by alleged escapees as a hero. He was a guard, but had a good heart and even acted on it. He helped them, or tried to, in several conflicting ways, with maybe another guy named perhaps Mustafa or Osama. Depending on the version, Abdulrazaq tried to free the prisoners 30 minutes before the attack (but they never made it out the unlocked door), or successfully released the survivors after the worst of the killings, or offered no help at all, leaving the prisoners to die or escape on their own. He then ran away, it was said, perhaps with the other semi-hero guard(s). Later, he was arrested by rebels, apparently Misrata ones.

Mr. Barouni presumably struck a plea deal long ago, as his name has been written into the rebel cover-story from day one. He sounded more like a legend at first, an added detail of the script the "survivors" were working off of. But he shows up as a named captive in Robert Worth's report in May 2012. One Tripoli fighter said the Misratans shot the guard in the foot during interrogation, and took him back to Misrata with them. (see QMOY report pp 74-76 for the varying legends, and p. 63 for Barouni as an unseen captive) According to the Herald's announcement, he's still alive and ready to face the charges both ways, perhaps to some dramatic acquittal. We might finally get to see the guy.

Jan. 8 Trial
Hamza Mabruk Muftah Harizi, Marwan Emhemed Khalifa Gaddoura, Musbah Mohamed Musbah Ajim, Naji Massoud Najjar and Sami Saleh Ragie

Hamza Harizi, the base commander, is a special case that will be covered below. Musbah and Sami are new names to me. Marwan and Naji, however, we know, again mostly via Robert Worth. The following summaries are directly from the report QMOY, pages 63-64:
Naji : Naji Najjar, a former Yarmouk guard, is now apparently a base trustee, whipping boy, and clown. He reportedly is happy to beg for beatings, and for family of his alleged victims to beat him at will and break broomsticks over him. A letter from his brother was read out: “Naji is being held by an illegal entity, being tortured on a daily basis, starved and forced to sign false statements.” They all laughed, even Naji. Ragai’s rebuttal to torture, starvation, and false confessions by an illegal entity was “there is no legal entity for us to hand the prisoners over to.”
Then there's Marwan Gdoura, the 28-year-old newly-devout Muslim scholar, involved in the execution of prisoners at “Yarmouk,” Worth writes, but apparently at Qasr Ben Ghashir by the details. There, on August 24, he ignored Dr. Omar Salhouba/Salhoba’s plea to “fear God” and killed him, along with five others. Interrogator Nasser Salhoba, Dr. Omar’s brother, says he still wanted to kill Marwan and once beat him severely for reflexively failing to step on a green Jamahiriya flag, showing a lack of remorse, and “that he would kill all of us here if he could.”
Hamza Harizi: Hazy
Harizi alone among these nine gets a military trial for some reason. Given as Hirazi in Worth's article, he was held in or near Az Zintan, apparently, with no visit managed. His jailer Eissa Gliza cited security concerns, explaining that the prisoner had to be moved frequently due to repeated death threats, two of which became thwarted assassination attempts by unspecified parties. No rank was there given, but a high one implied; he was “the Yarmouk prison commander.”

Sgt. Maj. Hamza el Harizi is mentioned in a late 2011 report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), as “the officer-in-charge” of the Yarmouk detention facility. there his superior was Lt. Col. Mohammed Mansour (see below), whoin turn reported directly to the Libyan leader's son Khamis Gaddafi. Thus, Harizi was ostensibly set just two degrees from Khamis. UN report, March 2 the commission found the “immediate commander” of the Yarmouk base was the soldier called [056], reporting to a brigadier [028] who in turn reported to Khamis. Thus, [056] is most likely Harizi. It doesn’t seem the UNHRC commission spoke with him and it’s not clear if he was in custody at that time or still at large. But by the time of Worth's visit, Harizi was locked-up. As QMOY summed up (p.64)
The CIWCL was eager to learn what the second link said, but for security reasons, there was no meeting. Worth too wrote “I was eager to talk to him,” hoping for insight into “one of the central mysteries” of the massacre: “Why? And who gave the orders?” [RW2] The presumptions so far has been “evil,” and “Khamis,” but perhaps Worth was hoping to have an expertly handled captive spell it out with alleged second-hand authority.
And now this prisoner of opaque condition is slated to get his day in court, under whatever rules of fairness and transparency govern military trials in "Free Libya."

Note: Harizi was heavily implicated, by alleged eyewitnesses and at least one alleged subordinate, with the Yarmouk shed massacre. They have him directly passing on the order to kill the lot, overseeing the elimination of survivors, and the burning of (about 50 of) their bodies back inside the shed days later. According to what's reported, he will be tried not in connection with that crime, but on the 8th, in connection to the smaller alleged massacre at the "Slovenian company" prison, as well as by tribunal. That's slightly interesting.

The Lesser Missing Names
There are more sources than Robert F. Worth feeding into the CIWCL's previous knowledge base, but only a few alleged accomplices fall outside his roster, mostly excluded from this trial list.

The first notable exception is actually  one of Worth's central interviewees, a young Ibrahim Lousha, mentioned in part 1. The oft-cited Ibrahim Lousha/Tajouri/Sadeq-Khalifah, aged 20, of Tajoura Tripoli, says he did it all. Devil child. He threw the grenades, headed up the heavy shooting, finished off the survivors 'til 2 am, and/or burned them alive. He left little for the other four or so alleged executioners, but candidly confesssed to everything and helped his jailer Ibrahim Bietalmal prove there was no torture in Misrata's jails. I mean, just look at this kid!

Yes, can we have a look at him now? He's not listed as about to stand trial for his crucial and shifting role. Has he been forgiven and released, or knocked off? Perhaps fake-knocked-off, his character forgotten or written out of the show with a wink?

Massachusetts-based Physicians for Human Rights witness "Laskhar" may or may not be missing from the list – the name was a pseudonym. One likely real/alleged name behind that is Wajdi Kikly (QMOY p. 57), from Az-Zawiya, who reportedly helped execute and later burn the victims, along with his boss, Hamza Hreji/Harizi (see below). Laskhar was from Az Zawiya, it was said, turned in by his uncle after taking a solid and all-seeing role in the Yarmouk killings. (QMOY p. 56) Laskhar also related the ridiculous days-long clean-up process with his commander Harizi, that consisted of burning them on about the 25th. His account was especially well-suited to the mainstrean understanding of the evidence, and was supported with curious precision by PHR's other well-managed witneeses. But of course, it's contradicted by most of the other information from sources not so well-meshed.

Missing: Mansour/Brigadier [028]
And then there's the top link between the multi-dead Khamis Gaddafi and the highest acknowledged captive, Hamza Harizi. This is Lt. Col. Mohammed Mansour, as perviously given, and according to the Herald, Mohammed Mansour Dhau, a continuing threat.
The Yarmouk association has urged survivors as well as families of those killed to attend the trials and keep track of the cases. It added that a number of people believed to have been involved in the massacre are still at large, including the officer in charge of the camp at the time, Colonel Mohamed Mansour Dhau.
It's never been clarified 100% that Mansour was in custody, but previous research had suggested it pretty strongly. The QMOY report had taken it as likely true, which was perhaps an over-estimation, especially since it suggests the lack of confirmation suggested he was killed, as opposed to never held.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) deputy director Richard Sollom wrote in late 2011 that “alleged war criminals from all sides of the recent conflict remain at large” and that “holding these individuals accountable is the most effective way to end impunity and establish the rule of law.” But he only named one such person, from one side; “one whom Libyan authorities should detain and hold accountable is Lt. Col. [Mohammed] Mansour, who ordered his troops to kill 153 men in late August.” PHR were told, and believed, that he “reported directly to Khamis Qaddafi,” who originated the order.

PHR's witness "Laskhar" had Mansour firmly in his overly-clear picture of the command loop (QMOY p. 56):
At 12:30 pm on the day of the execution, Laskhar said, Khamis Gaddafi was there at the base conducting a meeting, with bigwigs including Lt. Col. Mansour and the deputy chief of military intelligence. A few hours later, Laskhar says he also saw his boss Sgt. Maj. Harizi get a call from Mansour, relating the order to kill all the prisoners that very night. Unsurprisingly, Hamza also confirmed for Laskhar that the order came straight from the younger Gaddafi.

The name twist "Dhau" suggests two villainous brigade commanders on record - a Mohammed Mansour and a Mansour Dau - are one and the same (while other clues argue against that). The latter was named as a mind-controlling rapist by alleged girl executioner Nisreen Al-Farjani (no known relation to Dr. Salem). She later allegedly escaped rebel custody and claimed all this was a lie extracted under torture and rape. But she said, while shackled to a bed under rebel guns, that a female controller named Fatma "had an office at the 77 Brigade base and there was a room with a bed next door." She was sent there one day, and "Mansour Dau, who was the commander of 77 Brigade, then came in and shut the door" and raped her. Thereafter, she became a regime slave, she said (more willing than that, others smirked), forced to shoot at least a dozen rebels point blank in the face just for the added evil and insult. She was 19 at that time.

If Col./Lt. Col. Mansour/Dau is currently at liberty, it might be that he escaped. A commander code-named Brigadier [028] was met by the UN’s investigators. Brigadier is sometimes a general term for a higher-ranking officer, so this could without contradiction be Mansour/Dau. He had been in command of “the Khilit al-Ferjan zone,” which includes the Yarmouk base. Mansour is said to command that base but, since his subordinate Harizi ran it, Mansour's turf might have been the broader area.

The UN commission related as a fact they believed, based on what rebels told them, that 028 "reported directly to Khamis Qadhafi," as did Mansour, allegedly. Although they believed it, he didn't confirm it; "he denied this to the Commission.” Both Mansour and 028 are said to have visited Yarmouk on the day of the massacre, but then left-after passing on the order but prior to its execution. (see QMOY p. 55) This crucial, high-level, witness – a link if not the link to the leader’s son – says there was no such link. This lack of "confession" is unusual among those captured. Perhaps he was one of those not being tortured, or not yet broken by it. His denial had a little more detail:
“He told the Commission he was simply in charge of personnel at the Military Intelligence (Istikhbarat). … he says he never was tasked directly by members of the Qadhafi family. When asked about his knowledge of the massacre, he claimed he only heard about it after the event and “if you’re interested inhuman rights violations then I don’t know why I am here.”[UH p.70]
I suspect Brigadier [028] has died in the interim, whoever he was. Robert Worth visited in the spring of 2012 and heard exactly one past-tense reference to Mansour, by young Ibrahim, as a giver of the kill orders. (QMOY p. 62)
[Ibrahim Lousha] names commander Muhammad Mansour, who “arrived late in the afternoon and ordered the guards to kill all the prisoners in the hangar.” He previously said Mansour threatened them with his gun, but Worth adds, as the UNHRC does, Mansour / [028] then left the site, with his gun. With the threat removed, Lousha says: “the other guards had the grenades. I told them, ‘Give the grenades to me.” He threw two of these in on the prisoners...
No one else even mentions Mansour/Dau at all. He may well have been dead already by then, and he may not have gone out comfortably. If [028] is someone else, we apparently have a missing captive anyway; this Khamis-linked non-confessed commander doesn't seem to be mentioned anywhere else; no one higher in rank than Harizi has been acknowledged. The UN investigators should come clean whether it was Mansour they spoke to or someone remarkably similar. Because if it was him, he’s since been eliminated and erased as a captive, and turned into a ghost at large. And that's not how "Free Libya" was supposed to work (or was it?)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Shed Massacre Trial, part one

December 29, 2012
last edits Dec. 31

Note, Dec. 30: Part two, not today.

There has been nothing going on at this site for much of 2012, myself and other contributors having become wrapped up in the events in Syria. In a real sense, there’s more good to be done/bad to be prevented there. Libya, sadly, has been doomed to whatever it is as it hadn’t been for sure when I started this site in April 2011. The ongoing conflict in Bani Walid an elsewhere, the civil war as it exists in reduced form in the Libyan mind, and the various crimes and abuses of the new government and its forces, are all still well-worth study, but we only have so much time in a day.

But a reader alerts me to a development in an area I feel an obligation to; the Khamis Brigade Shed Massacre, which is set to take on a courtroom dimension some 16 months after the event. As a reader alerts me, the upcoming trial for several accused asoldiers was announced in the "new independent Libya daily" Libya Herald on December 27.

Yarmouk camp massacre trials to start in 10 days’ time
The trials of ten men accused of involvement in the Yarmouk Detention Camp massacre on 23-24 August last year are to start in January.
The Yarmouk association has urged survivors as well as families of those killed to attend the trials and keep track of the cases. It added that a number of people believed to have been involved in the massacre are still at large, including the officer in charge of the camp at the time, Colonel Mohamed Mansour Dhau.
Accused, by-and-large confessed, and innocent. This series of two posts will serve double as a first new article here in months (and a last chance for one in 2012), as well as an open letter to the defense team for this upcoming trial. Anyone who knows who that is and how to contact them should pass this on to them.

Our Investigation
We have of course covered this event quite extensivelyat this site and via the Citizen’s Investigation into War Crimes in Libya.
- All research here, links gathered
- 152-page report, A Question Mark Over Yarmouk (PDF link)
- Summary press release - "Holocaust" denied
- video:Amnesty by Way of Fakery

In summary: Something like 80 apparent Gaddafi loyalists were slaughtered at and around the overrun Yarmouk military base south of the capitol, and the majority charred beyond recognition (those who weren’t charred were primarily Black men). Then a stream of fake witnesses came forth, eventually making it seem that 51 non-loyalist prisoners out of an original 157 had escaped without a scratch to tell the tale – blasted at close quarters with machine guns and grenades, by Gaddafi loyalists and African mercenaries. They formed a survivor’s group and had an anniversary meeting earlier this year, featuring the first-ever Black survivor. Their original champion, Dr. Salem Al-Farjani aka Dr. Salem Rajab, might be dead by now.

Recommendation to the Defense
First, anyone claiming to represent these accused Human Beings should consider the PDF report, especially the overview (section 1.1 pp 7-9), any sections hinted at there that sound interesting, and the part about the captive soldiers now to stand trial (section 2.3, pp 51-67).

If such a thing won’t get the courthouse rocketed, try for a special defense of incrimination. Your clients aren’t guilty, torture-extracted confessions notwithstanding, because somone else is.

It’s hard to know just who executed the people in question, but the evidence suggests it would have been primarily fighters from Misrata. The Misrata Military Council had the first information on the crime, 140 grenade-killed prisoners, all dead, increasingly burnt as reports came in, just found in some prison in near Tripoli. These leaks started at 6:15 AM on August 24, just hours after the massacre is alleged, the same day some rebels say they conquered the Yarmouk base, and three days before the Misratans later acknowledged access to the place. There is simply nothing else known that they could have been talking about - they were at the scene way too early and they knew it. All else, apparently, is made-up to cover for that. (report p.129)

One name does rise to the fore as someone to blame; Ibrahim Bietalmal, leader of Misrata Military Council at the time. (pp 139-141) Since then overseeing a "prison system" plagued by endemic torture, executions, and disappearances, he also may have had a special role in crafting the cover story for his fighters' crime. For one thing, he played hands-on (cigarette-burning?) jailer to another Ibrahim, some kid held in one of his Misrata hell-holes. The younger Ibrahim does appear well-treated, pampered like a star actor almost. He claimed to be one of the Yarmouk guards, either the grenade thrower, the main shooter, the main torturer, or the one who burned everyone alive on the wrong date. His last name always changes – Tajouri, Lousha, Sadeq-Khalifah – but the visual and biographical clues and the unchanging first name make the link clear. Ibrahim's name is probably fiction, but it's the same name as a chief suspect in this unsolved crime. (p 59-62)

So far, the victorious teflon brigades have had the last word on their crime, filtered through their own captives and various alleged witnesses who seem to be speaking freely, but can often be proven to be lying or wrong in their memories anyway. In court, that could, hypothetically change. The details of "Free Libya" will decide whether or not that happens.

If no such defense is lodged, that would be a bad sign for the prospects of accountability and justice there. If they're found guilty, it will be suspicious, but not surprising. In fact, I predict very little fight for prosecutors to get the win. I predict guilty pleas, and begging forgiveness and/or for death. The "revolution" must be vindicated. Facts on the ground can't do it, so one way or another, the courts will have to help.

Anyone challenging that decision will have to have some courage. I'm really not sure if I hope they do or not. Thefight for truth iscosmicallyworth it, every time. But one more kidnapped-and-tortured-to-death lawyer, just to slow to process down a bit, might not be worth it to everyone involved.

Trial Sequence
The Herald got its information from members of the Yarmouk Massacre Victims Association, who named several defendants in three separate trials with set dates in the very near future. There's little time to prepare that hasn't already passed. My recommendation comes late.

January 6: trial of four men accused of torturing prisoners to death (and/or the alleged mass execution?) at Yarmouk:
Yakhlif Sifawi, Abdul-Razak Baruni, Juma Daqdouq and Mohamed Harous are accused of torture and torturing unnamed victims to death at the camp.
January 8, related Qasr Ben Ghashir killings trial (also covered in great detail in the report, pages 20-31):
A second case, known as “the Slovenian company case” (a reference to the company that ran the compound before it was taken over, as a makeshift prison) involves five named defendants: Hamza Mabruk Muftah Harizi, Marwan Emhemed Khalifa Gaddoura, Musbah Mohamed Musbah Ajim, Naji Massoud Najjar and Sami Saleh Ragie.
The third case involves just one defendant: Sergeant-Major Hamza Mabrouk Muftah El-Harizi. He is accused of mass murder. This case is said to be being handled by a military court.
Part two I don't have time for this morning will go into those names and give some profiles of the men in the dock.

Note Dec. 31: Part two