By Jasper Fakkert
September 4, 2011

The mercenaries were the most feared and hated men in Libya. Mainly flown in from Chad and Sudan, former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has used them against his own people since February to fight for his crumbling regime.

In the recent battle for Tripoli, where Libya’s rebel army laid siege on the capital, mercenaries were notably deployed as snipers to prevent the rebels from taking full control over parts of the city.

But with Libyan rebels now controlling most parts of the country, including Tripoli, the anger and bloodshed at the hands of the mercenaries has led to a witch hunt for dark African men. Amidst this, rebel fighters are not only to target those who were paid to kill, but also migrant workers and other immigrants who have lived in Libya for decades.

In a report published on Sunday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), which is now in control of the country, to “stop the arbitrary arrests and abuse of African migrant workers and black Libyans assumed to be mercenaries.”

According to the human rights organization many black Africans are arrested solely because of their dark skin color. “It’s a dangerous time to be dark-skinned in Tripoli,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, in a press release.

“The NTC has legitimate concerns about unlawful mercenaries and violent activity, but it can’t simply arrest dark-skinned men just in case they think they might be mercenaries,” she said.

Although HRW is condemning the broad crackdown on dark African men, it has confirmed evidence that the Gadhafi regime was recruiting mercenaries from Chad and Sudan. It also discovered a large base that has been used by hundreds of African mercenaries since 2011.

Over the past week hundreds of dark African men, including migrant workers, have been arrested by the rebel forces that are mainly young, armed Libyan men.

The dark Africans are being held in makeshift detention facilities across Tripoli, including a soccer field, according to HRW.

One of them in the detention center, a 60-year-old man from Chad named Othman, was allowed by the rebel security forces to talk to a HRW researcher. He said close to 200 men were being held at the soccer field.

Othman himself said he had been in Libya for 30 years, and had become a Libyan citizen in 1991.

Before the start of a popular uprising in Libya in February this year, there were an estimated 1 million to 2 million African migrant workers in the country. Many of them fled the country after the violence erupted when rebel forces in Eastern Libya took up arms against Gadhafi’s regime.

“African migrants have worked in Libya for many years, often carrying out the most unpleasant jobs, and this is no way to treat those who stayed put during the uprising,” said Whitson.

The reprisal arrests of African men have caused migrant workers to seek safety. The men stay in private homes in large groups, allowing only women to go out to buy food and water.

The HRW researcher visited one such house where 30 Nigerian migrant workers were staying. In one instant last week, armed Libyan men had come into the home searching for weapons. Unable to find anything, they instead took their mobile phones, and money worth the equivalent of $252.

Having overthrown Gadhafi’s rule, and now ruling most parts of the country, Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) is faced with the daunting task of rebuilding the country—including putting judicial processes in place.

Keen to avoid losing its legitimacy, leaders of the NTC have on different occasions urged their fighters not to resort to violence in revenge.

According to HRW, however, the judicial system still falls short. “A prosecutor’s office has apparently assumed control of the Maftuah prison and begun investigations. However to Human Rights Watch’s knowledge no detainees in Tripoli have been brought before a judge to review the legality of their detention,” it states.

Source: The Epoch Times.