Have Libyan Rebels Committed Human Rights Abuses?

Rough translation of Military Council of Libya Statement in Response to HRW Report on 13 July 2011. From Libya Al Hurra TV Thursday 21st July 2011:

"In response to the Human Rights Watch report on 13 July regarding the violation of homes and property in the liberated areas, we as the military council for the west of Libya do not support or condone these behaviors that have come into question. There are under investigations underway and the perpetrators of these actions do not rep the 17 February Revolution or the Freedom Fighters.

The Freedom Fighters are doing what they can to protect property, human life and to protect the captured Gadaffi troops and provide them with treatment in accordance with international law. Every effort is being made to protect minority groups and others at risk, in compliance with Geneva convention.

The Military Council will do its best to educate everyone on the proper treatment of civilians and captured soldiers in compliance with international law and the Geneva convention."

In a report titled Libya: Opposition Forces Should Protect Civilians and Hospitals
issued on July 13, 2011 HRW charged:

In four towns captured by rebels in the Nafusa Mountains over the past month, rebel fighters and supporters have damaged property, burned some homes, looted from hospitals, homes, and shops, and beaten some individuals alleged to have supported government forces, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch witnessed some of these acts, interviewed witnesses to others, and spoke with a rebel commander about the abuses.

"Opposition leaders should halt and punish all rebel abuses" said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "The rebel authorities have a duty to protect civilians and their property, especially hospitals, and discipline anyone responsible for looting or other abuse."

Rebel forces seized control of al-Awaniya, Rayayinah, and Zawiyat al-Bagul in mid-June 2011, ousting government forces that had used the towns as a base for attacks against rebel-held territory - some of them indiscriminate attacks on civilian-inhabited areas. Rebel forces captured al-Qawalish on July 6.

In all four towns, some residents had left when government forces first arrived to fight the rebels in April and May. In all the towns but Rayayinah, most of the remaining residents fled when government forces withdrew, apparently fearing reprisals from rebel forces.

Al-Awaniya and Zawiyat al-Bagul are home to members of the Mesheshiya tribe, known for its loyalty to the Libyan government and Muammar Gaddafi.

The rebel military commander in the Nafusa Mountains, Col. El-Moktar Firnana, admitted that some abuses had taken place after rebels captured the towns, but said such attacks violated orders issued to the rebel forces not to attack civilians or damage civilian property. He claimed that some people had been punished, but did not say how many people or for what offenses.

One of the major problems with war is that it brutalizes and dehumanizes even those fighting on the just side of a conflict, not that all wars even have a just side, but some do.

I believe the Libyan opposition has a just cause in their civil war with Qaddafi and his forces. If you still harbor any doubts about whether Qaddafi ever gave his opposition any choice other than going over to armed struggle or submitting to his brutality, please take ten minutes and spend it looking out a window onto a street in Benghazi back on Feb. 18 when only Qaddafi people were doing the shooting. [Watch this YouTube video.]

Even though their cause is just, they are not protected from the powerful corrupting forces of armed conflict. In the Nafusa Mountains, even more so than elsewhere, the rebel force is largely made up of civilian volunteers new to warfare. They tend to be poorly armed, poorly trained and poorly disciplined.

In mid-June, at a high cost in freedom fighter lives, they managed to retake the towns from which Qaddafi's forces were pounding the entire area. Apparently revenge was taken by members of this force and mistakes were made.

It is good to see that steps are being taken to correct the situation.

Similarly, war crimes were committed early in the struggle when the newly self-armed protesters in Benghazi finally got their hands on the pro-Qaddafi forces in the barracks that had been sniping at them for days. Some were lynched. This must also be admitted.

This recent video purports to show the treatment of a Qaddafi POW captured by the rebel forces near Misrata. I hope this is an honest portrayal of his treatment and this becomes the standard. Proper and fair treatment will encourage Qaddafi's soldiers to come over to the side of the revolution.

No crueler mid-wife to the birth of a new society can be found than civil war. When civil war is necessary, the desired end result of a nation at peace must be kept firmly in mind. Every effort must be made to assure that there are no excesses and no criminal acts committed by those that call themselves freedom fighters.

Vietnam today stands as a find example of what can be achieved in that regards. Owing to the extremes of U.S. imperialism, no nation has had a more violent birth. It took the Vietnamese 30 years of persistent armed struggle to throw off both domestic tyrants and colonial masters and yet today nowhere can you find a society that is more at peace with itself.

Finally, I'd like to share with you another video I've found from the protest in Tripoli at the beginning. This also supports today's theme because at the end of the video the protesters catch a Qaddafi thug that was shooting at them. The fate of the thug is not made clear by the video, but oh what they do to his car!

Here is a recap of my other DKos dairies on the Internet, North Africa and Anonymous:
Tripoli Green Square Reality Check
Behind the Green Curtain: Libya Today
Gilbert Achcar on the Libyan situation and the Left
NATO slammed for Libya civilian deaths NOT!
Qaddafi's Million Man March
NATO's Game Plan in Libya
February 21st - Tripoli's Long Night
Did Qaddafi Bomb Peaceful Protesters?
Tripoli Burn Notice
Libyans, Palestinians & Israelis
'Brother' Qaddafi Indicted plus Libya & Syria: Dueling Rally Photofinishs
An Open Letter to ANSWER
ANSWER answers me
No Libyans allowed at ANSWER Libya Forum
Are they throwing babies out of incubators yet?
Continuing Discussion with a Gaddafi Supporter
Boston Globe oped supports Gaddafi with fraudulent journalism
Doha summit supports Libyan rebels
Current Events in Libya
Who's running Egypt?
Amonpour Plays Softball with Gaddafi
Californians Support North African Revolts
Google Supports Revolts | Anonymous does too!
Secret U.S. Intelligence Source on Middle East Revealed !
Arming Gaddfi
Are "mutinous officers" are being executed in Egypt now?
Algeria's 19 year long State of Emergency to end soon, President says
Senior Egyptian Army Officers Ordered Massacre!
Tales of Tyrants: Ben Ali, Mubarak & Suleiman
The Mubarak Screw Up & the Suleiman Danger
BREAKING: Mubarak is Defiant
The Google Search for Wael Ghonim
Tunisia's Revolution Continues
Google Goes Rebel, Supports Egyptian Protest
Tunisian Anonymous activists take on Egyptian cause
Protesters roar back with "Day of Departure" for Mubarak
Act Now to Stop Mubarak's Thugs From Killing More! w Petition
Act Now to Stop Mubarak's Thugs From Killing More!
They Should Have Helped That Street Vendor
Million Egyptian Protest Planned as Resistance Continues
Huffington Post Disses the Jasmine Revolution Redux
No Internet? No Problem! Anonymous Faxes Egypt
Egypt is on Fire!
North African Revolution Continues
Egypt Protests Continue, Tunisia Wants Ben Ali Back
BREAKING: Protesters Plan Massive "Day of Wrath" in Egypt Today
Tunisians Thank Anonymous as North Africa Explodes
Huffington Post Disses the Jasmine Revolution
Tunisia: A Single Tweet Can Start A Prairie Fire!
Anonymous plans Op Swift Assist in Tunisia
Arrested Pirate Party Member Becomes Tunisian Minister
Is Libya Next? Anonymous Debates New Operation
Tunis: This Photo was Taken 66 Minutes Ago
The WikiLeaks Revolution: Anonymous Strikes Tunisia
EMERGENCY: DKos Must Act Now to Protect Tunisian Bloggers!