November 16, 2014
Amidst the general chaos in Libya, new fighting rages between different factions in Dernah, Al Qaeda central in the east of Libya. As the BBC reported on November 11, The "Islamic State" (ISIS, taken globally) is trying to gain control there, and might be up against regular Al Qaeda (both should be strong there), plus at least a third group recognized by the BBC, who say three main groups are fighting there. These have different levels of moderation, so the one BBC favors is clear: The known factions "are the Islamic Youth Shura Council, a branch of Ansar al-Sharia, and the more moderate Martyrs of Abuslim Brigade."
The third group being whoever aligned with "Islamic State," unclear. The BBC's activist source said it was a breakaway part of the Shura council. More scrutiny is probably needed before one blames this Shura council breakaway group. The moderate group here take their name from the Abu Salim prison uprising - advertised as a massacre - of al-Qaeda-linked militants and suspects detained after a CIA-MI6-sponsored assassination and overthrow attempt in 1996.
Anyway, in this millieu, BBC reports three activists were just found dead, beheaded, in Dernah. They name them as Siraj Ghatish, Mohamed Battu and Mohamed al-Mesmari. "Our correspondent says they remained low-profile, mostly passing on information via social media pages." The report notes beheadings like this are relatively rare in Libya. It probably is, compared to Iraq and Syria, pits of unknown and deepening barbarity, where Dernah had once the world's record of recruits-per-capita fighting and learning. It's been said they've been flocking back to Libya, and these beheadings seem like a bad sign - a blacker yet wind blowing into the void that was, until 2011, a solid green nation.
The same day, Human Rights Watch issued a statement (based on the preceding surge of violence in a similar vein) calling for action to solve the crisis; Islamists should stop fighting and agree to a "political settlement," and Libya should finally (force the Zintanis to?) hand over Seif Al-Islam Al-Gaddafi to be tried at the Hague.
They point to an International Criminal Court (ICC) statement to that effect as a beacon of light amidst a "deteriorating situation" and "soaring insecurity" with "grave abuses being committed by all sides," here in November 2014. The only side for HRW and the ICC, at one time over three years ago now, was the side of the "Gaddafi regime." But by now Muammar was murdered, along with several of his sons, some grandchildren, top ministers, aides and generals, loyal military forces, supportive civilians, and random "collateral damage" either tossed in a deep prison cell or stomped into their graves.
By now, that's not even one of the sides - or are they again? They're the only side then mentioned as needing fresh punishment at this point. HRW and the ICC feel that the long-jailed son of the martyred leader avoiding "international justice" is what drives the chaos that has plagued Libya ever since it stopped having a natural and functional government. This seems to be the opinion of Richard Dicker, international justice director at Human Rights Watch, who said “Security Council members should make clear that the state of impunity in Libya needs to end,” because it's become "a main driver for the country’s current instability.”
Note: he's not serious about this, or he'd be asking Libya's tribes to mange the hand-over, not distant "security council members" with no more credibility in Libya.
I haven't been following closely enough to have the best say on this, but it sounds pretty preposterous. Last I heard, the charges against Seif were vague and baseless, concocted to justify the overthrow of his father's government and prevent a family-based transitional alternative to the popular and pragmatic Seif. These, as I recall, were mostly connected with issuing orders for the killing of innocent protesters that it seems never happened, or perhaps it was the air strikes on them that also didn't happen, the mass rape orders, the hiring of African mercenaries, or some specific massacre of mostly black civilians he was implicated in...
Maybe somewhere he wronged Al Qaeda or ISIS and they want him tried at the Hague and this really would help chill them out. It's possible? What does everyone else think? Will handing over Saif Al-Gaddafi still the tensions racking Libya and especially its east today? Or is the solution to be found elsewhere? How about installing Seif as president?
Warning: This site contains images and graphic descriptions of extreme violence and/or its effects. It's not as bad as it could be, but is meant to be shocking. Readers should be 18+ or a mature 17 or so. There is also some foul language occasionally, and potential for general upsetting of comforting conventional wisdom. Please view with discretion.