United Nations A/hrc/19/68

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Factual Findings

          1. Qadhafi forces

  1. As described by the Commission in its first and the present Report, the Qadhafi Government targeted people for arrest, torture and killing based on their opposition to the Government. However, the Commission has not found evidence that one particular group, within the thuwar and their supporters, was targeted more than others. While some towns were historically oppressed by the Government, there is no indication they were treated during the conflict in a worse way as a consequence of this previous discrimination.

      1. Thuwar

      2. Targeting of the Tawerghan community by the Misrata thuwar

  2. Tawergha lies 38 kilometres south-east of Misrata along the road to Sirte. It falls under the administrative jurisdiction of Misrata. The relationship between the people of Tawergha and Misrata deteriorated during the conflict. The Commission is aware of diverging opinions regarding the relationship between the two communities prior to the conflict. Some have suggested that the two communities co-existed harmoniously,564 while others have stated that underlying tensions over land ownership and racism have always bubbled under the surface.565

  3. As Libya’s third largest city, Misrata was the country’s business capital and prior to the conflict the base for many national companies. In contrast, Tawergha was relatively less well-off with lower levels of literacy. Misrata’s residents are predominantly Arab while Tawerghans are black descendants of slaves. In meetings with the local authorities, Misratans have consistently informed the Commission that the issue of race was not a significant one in the Misrata-Tawerghan relationship. The Commission notes, however, indications of racism in individual interactions between some Misratan thuwar and Tawerghans, as detailed below.

  4. Misrata was the scene of some of the conflict’s fiercest fighting. Shelling of the city was particularly relentless between mid-March and mid-May 2011, resumed in June and continued sporadically until early-August 2011 when the thuwar finally took full control.

  5. A number of Tawerghan soldiers, already part of the Libyan army, formed part of Qadhafi forces attacking Misrata. Some are also believed to have joined as volunteers.566 By mid-May 2011, under the combined assault of the thuwar and NATO, Qadhafi forces began to retreat towards various rear positions, one of which was Tawergha.567 By early August 2011, a section of the Qadhafi forces were shelling Misrata from positions inside Tawergha.568 The Commission has received reports that Qadhafi forces established checkpoints around Tawergha and would not allow civilians to leave.569

  6. Having taken control of Misrata, the thuwar advanced, shelling Tawergha from 10 to 12 August 2011. Grad rockets and S5 rockets, both of which cannot be guided towards specific point targets in the way used by the thuwar, were fired into the town.570 The Commission has received consistent reports of civilians being killed and injured when rockets hit their houses.571

  7. The thuwar entered the town on 12 August 2011 and took control of it by 14 August 2011. Most Tawerghans fled the town between 10 and 12 August 2011, some in cars, others walking.572 Media reports from the time observed that many fled leaving behind their possessions including clothes, passports and family photographs.573 While Tawergha was being shelled, thuwar from Misrata remained on the outskirts of the town. The Commission has received multiple reports of Misrata thuwar shooting at Tawerghans as they left the town, with some fatalities.574 The Commission also received a report of thuwar from Misrata firing at an ambulance evacuating the wounded and the dead from Tawergha on 11 August 2011.575

  8. Some civilians remained within the town, either because they were trapped by the fighting, were not physically strong enough to flee or because they wished to protect their property from looting. In interviews conducted by the Commission, Tawerghans who had remained inside Tawergha stated that they were either arrested and and taken to Misrata, or were beaten (or threatened with violence) and made to leave.576

  9. Tawergha, a town with an estimated population of 30,000, was emptied of its inhabitants and remains empty today. The largest group of Tawerghans moved south and took refuge in Al Jufrah district. As detailed below, attacks by thuwar coming from Misrata caused many of them to relocate to the relative safety of Benghazi. Another group of Tawerghans fled to Tripoli and Al Khums, usually stopping for a few days in Al Hisha, a town 65 kilometres from Tawergha. Tawerghans living in various internally displaced peoples’ camps across Libya have expressed a desire to return.577

  10. In the days following 13-14 August 2011, the Misratan thuwar undertook house-to-house searches of the town. The Commission has received reports that adult male Tawerghans were beaten by thuwar and taken to unofficial detention centres in Misrata (see chap. III, sect. D).578 In one instance, the Commission interviewed a Tawerghan man who reported he had been beaten with metal sticks and had his legs trodden on and who could no longer walk properly as a result.579 The Commission has no reports of women being detained. In one interview, however, a Tawerghan woman stated that the Misratan thuwar made her crawl on all fours and bark while they insulted her and said that Tawerghans were “dogs” who did not deserve to live”.580

  11. The local authorities in Misrata as well as the Libyan national authorities have expressed the view that the Tawerghans left of their own accord “perhaps out of fear, due to the crimes they committed.”581 Based on more than 50 interviews with Tawerghans, the Commission does not consider this to be the full picture.582

  12. In the months after Tawergha was emptied of its population, houses and public buildings continue to be looted, shot at, and burnt by the Misratan thuwar. According to an analysis of UNOSAT satellite imagery, 49 structures were destroyed or damaged in Tawergha between 12 June 2011 and 20 August 2011, including multiple buildings that were destroyed and showing indications of fire.583 Between 20 August 2011 and 24 November 2011, while the town was empty, an additional 27 buildings were destroyed or damaged, all likely residential and commercial structures. On 24 November 2011 imagery, a relatively large smoke plume from a fire is visible in central Tawergha.

  13. The Commission visited the roads bordering Tawergha on 21 January 2012 and found that all the roads into the town had been blocked by mounds of sand. There were bulldozer tracks leading to each mound. Investigators observed houses being set alight in the town and the sounds of active shooting. They were informed by members of the Misrata thuwar that buildings in the town were being used for target practice. The Commission observed that each building appeared to have been struck by multiple weapons. In some cases, buildings appeared to have been deliberately bulldozed. The Commission observed that, while some buildings were totally destroyed, all were uninhabitable with many now structurally unsound.

  14. The Commission notes that the Independent Civil Society Fact-Finding Mission was in Tawergha on 21 November 2011 and stated in its report that “a number of apartment buildings and houses in separate compounds throughout the town began to burn. It was apparent that these fires were intentional, and there was a strong smell of petrol in the air”.584 According to Human Rights Watch, its investigators were present in Tawergha from 3 to 5 October 2011 and witnessed “militias and individuals from Misrata set 12 houses aflame”.585 Human Rights Watch investigators also were said to have observed “trucks full of furniture and carpets, apparently looted from homes” being driven out of Tawergha.586

  15. The Commission observed that the word “Tawergha” had been scratched off road and other signs. In some cases, the words “New Misrata” has been written over them.587 Public buildings such as the school and hospital had been vandalised and the word “slave” appears as graffiti throughout the town. This is consistent with the observations made in a Wall Street Journal article, dated 21 June 2011, where its reporter noted that “on the road between Misrata and Tawergha, slogans like “the brigade for purging slaves, black skin” have supplanted pro-Gadhafi scrawl”.588 Similar graffiti was noted by several other newspapers.589

  16. While many Misratans believe that Tawerghans received preferential treatment under the Qadhafi Government, this has been rejected by a number of Tawerghans interviewed by the Commission.590 Several officials and residents of Misrata informed the Commission that Tawerghans relied heavily on Misrata in terms of employment, procurement of basic necessities, and higher education.591 A dominant narrative that has appeared in both the Commission’s interviews and in media reports, is that the Misrata thuwar’s targeting of the Tawerghans was founded on a belief that Tawerghans supported the Qadhafi forces during the attacks on Misrata and that their men were responsible for the rape of Misratan women during the conflict.592 As noted in section on sexual violence (Chap. III, sect. F), the Commission recognizes the unique difficulties of confirming incidents of sexual violence in Libya. The Commission, however, received no substantiated information indicating that individual Tawerghans or organised groups of Tawerghan men raped women in Misrata or elsewhere.593

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