The video shows a group of men, their wrists tied up, locked in a zoo cage. In their mouths are pieces of green cloth, which angry men standing around the cage order them to swallow. These shocking images were filmed at a zoo in the northern Libyan city of Misrata. They illustrate the lawlessness of militiamen who fought against former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and who now control large parts of the country.
This undated video (below) was uploaded to YouTube in late February, and recently started gaining attention online. The men standing around the cage seem to be enjoying the spectacle. They insult the prisoners non-stop. One of the men yells, “Come over here, you dirty dog! Swallow the flag!” The flag seems to be the green flag that represented Libya under Gaddafi. At 57 seconds and again at 1 minute into the video, gunshots – presumably shot into the air – can be heard.
While the men in the cage are all black, it is unclear whether their race had anything to do with their imprisonment, or if they were just on the wrong side during the Libyan revolution.
These prisoners are not immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa; they are black Libyans from the town of Tawergha, 38 kilometres away from Misrata. Gaddafi’s troops set up camp in Tawergha during the revolution.
"This barbaric form of revenge illustrates the state of anarchy Libya is in today"
Ibrahim Al Oujaly works as a salesman in Tripoli. He is in regular contact with family members in Misrata and in Tawergha.
What you see in this video is an example of the type of revenge currently being carried out by former rebels [armed groups who overthrew Gaddafi].Residents of the town of Tawergha were given weapons by Gaddafi’s forces to help them fight against the rebels during the revolution. They fought against Misrata’s rebels, who claim that they raped and massacred civilians. That’s why when the Misrata rebels took control of the town [on August 13, 2011], they decided to get revenge. They imprisoned the men they found in Tawergha – those that were still there, because many had already fled fearing reprisals.This barbaric form of revenge illustrates the state of anarchy Libya is in today, despite the National Transitional Council’s efforts [NTC chief Moustapha Abdeljalil promised to take serious measures against arbitrary arrests and prolonged detentions without trials]. The former rebels still control certain parts of the country and refuse to let the state handle matters there. Some militias, like the one in Tripoli, even have their own detention centres. Former rebels intimidate the local courts into doing their bidding, and judges are starting to get fed up with this [in December, a militia even barged into a district attorney’s office in Tripoli].These former rebels don’t understand the spirit of Libya’s revolution. We didn’t get rid of Gaddafi to replace him with more dictators. The poor treatment of prisoners, as seen in videos circulating online, is very shocking to most Libyans. However neither state media nor private media are reporting on it. I don’t think the government is doing anything to try to hide this – it’s just that our journalists are too used to being soft with those in power.”
Violence against black people in Libya
Residents of Tawergha aren’t the only black Libyans that militias have targeted. Last September, Amnesty International asked the NTC to take measures to protect black Libyans, vulnerable to attacks due to the colour of their skin. Amnesty’s report notably mentioned attacks on the residents of the town of Sebha, in southern Libya.