Benghazi At Risk Of Atrocities If Gaddafi Troops Retake Power

Mar 17, 2011, 10:09

Human Rights Watch warned today that the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi was at risk for atrocities at the hands of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi's troops. After air strikes hit the region on Thursday, rebels reported fighting between the two sides in Ajdabiyah, south of the Benghazi.

'Our main concern is the extreme violence and potential for retribution by Gaddafi's forces if he succeeds in retaking the area. This is a clarion call given the potential for very grave and very widespread abuses if he retakes Benghazi,' special adviser to Human Rights Watch Fred Abrahams told Reuters. 'He (Gaddafi) won't hesitate to use violence against this rebellious city ... we're simply saying that Benghazi and the eastern cities face the risk of serious violations, perhaps even atrocities.'

News of fighting to the south has created tension for Benghazi, a stronghold for the interim Libyan government. But news of over 30 dead in Ajdabiyah caused many to flee the country, the Associated Press reported.

As fear of atrocities escalated, groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have begun collecting data in Benghazi. Citing sudden arrests, disappearances and deliberate killings of people who joined anti-Gaddafi protests as well as casual onlookers and migrant workers, these groups have trumpeted support for outside assistance for rebel forces. 

Amnesty International researcher Donatella Rovera told Reuters that, when she left Benghazi on Wednesday morning, 'the situation was calm, nothing was happening in the town but there was news of stuff happening around. A lot of people have left Benghazi, and moved to Tobruk.'

The pleas have not gone unheard as the U.N. met today to discuss a possible no-fly-zone over the country. Western powers  have also pushed for a U.N. Security Council vote today on an Arab League-backed resolution to approve international intervention in Libya to protect civilians from bombardment by Gaddafi's forces. 

Through ongoing U.N. negotiations, Gaddafi's forces announced they would stop fighting Sunday to give rebel forces a chance to surrender. The rebels, however, are not expected to go quietly.

'We know that the rebels in Benghazi are better armed and more professional, not like the other young men who ran to the front. We know the people who started this will stay until the end, but people are deeply afraid,' Abrahams told Reuters. 'They know Gaddafi and they know this kind of rebellion can only end in victory or defeat.'

Source: Reuters