United Nations A/hrc/19/68

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Special Police Forces were within the chain of command of the Ministry of Interior, headed prior to the conflict by General Abdul Fatah Younis.

  • The Revolutionary Guard (also known as the Republican Guard) was a structured political and paramilitary apparatus within the armed forces tasked with ensuring loyalty to the Government and suppressing any opposition76. According to information provided to the Commission, the Revolutionary Guard included six brigades (a Special Forces Brigade, an Infantry Brigade, an Artillery Brigade, and three tank brigades all stationed on the outskirts of Tripoli).77 It was thought to have been approximately 40,000 strong78 and “the real frontier protection force.”79 The force had access to battle tanks, armoured personnel carriers, helicopters and possibly anti-aircraft artillery and guided weapons. A unit from the Guard, composed solely of female soldiers and known as the “Green Nuns” or “Revolutionary Nuns” served as Muammar Qadhafi’s bodyguards. Members of the Revolutionary Guard were uniformed.

  • The Commission was informed that Revolutionary Guards were not employed full time but were volunteers, and were accepted for training on the recommendations of other members of the Revolutionary Guards. They were provided about four months of training, especially in the use of weapons, and had to attend annual refresher courses. Thorough security checks were completed in respect of each member of the Revolutionary Guard to ensure that they were completely loyal to the government. At the time of graduation, each member was required to swear an oath never to betray Qadhafi. Members of the Revolutionary Guard had access to many privileges.80

      1. Thuwar

    1. The thuwar brigades were formed autonomously at the outset of the conflict and in some cases managed over time to fashion their ranks into reasonably well-organized command structures. Given constraints in telephone and internet communication during the conflict81, there was little coordination across regional lines leading to the development of independent military structures and chains of command.

    2. As a result, a number of geographically-rooted armed kataeb proliferated across Libya. Such geographically-rooted militias were responsible for taking control and securing their own areas, and maintained their independence even after the end of hostilities. The on-going existence and visibility of a multitude of militias across Libya, each with its own structures, caches of weapons, chains of command and procedures is largely a reflection of the trajectory of the conflict, which was fought along numerous fragmented frontlines with little – and in some instances no - central control or coordination.

    3. The vast majority of thuwar who took up arms against the Qadhafi Government were civilian volunteers, who joined their neighbourhood militia. Their efforts were aided by defectors from the Libyan armed forces (Al-Sha’ab al-Musalah) who brought with them expertise, weapons and military discipline.

    4. While there was an attempt in Benghazi to create a central command for the thuwar in the shape of a Libyan National Army, essentially composed of deserters, initially under the leadership of General Abdul Fatah Younis, it was marred by divisions from the onset. Younis’ leadership remained contentious, given his ties with the government since the al-Fateh Revolution, which brought Muammar Qadhafi to power in 1969. General Khalifa Hufter, one of the field commanders in the Libya-Chad war, was another key senior military figure to join the opposition. After the killing of General Abdul Fatah Younis in unclear circumstances on 28 July 2011, Sliman Mahmoud, Deputy Chief-of-Staff of the Libyan National Army, assumed control, while Khalifa Hufter remained a key commander on the eastern frontline in Brega. In January 2012, the NTC appointed Youssef Mankoush as Chief-of-Staff.

    5. The NTC established a Military Council, headed by Omar Hariri, to co-ordinate security matters, and a NTC operations centre responsible for military coordination and intelligence gathering under the leadership of Brigadier General Abdulsalam al-Hasi was created. The military leadership established “training camps” in eastern Libya, where volunteers received a few days of training before joining the front lines.

    6. The Libyan National Army neither coordinated nor led the military struggle against Qadhafi forces, and was largely confined to the stagnant eastern frontline around Brega throughout the conflict. Even in eastern Libya, the base of the Libyan National Army, independent kataeb were established by civilians, who did not wish to join the army. Among the largest independent kataeb was the 17 February Martyrs (Katiba Shuhada) Brigade in Benghazi, while further kataeb sprung-up in al-Bayda, Darna and Ajdabiya.

    7. In other regions of Libya, far from the opposition stronghold of Benghazi, kataeb were formed around regional centres, in principle reporting to local civilian and military councils and local security committees, but in some cases acting autonomously with little coordination beyond their neighbourhood reach and largely under the command and control of individual commanders. The exact number of such kataeb across the country is difficult to establish, with estimates ranging from 100 to 300.82 The most prominent, best organized, and well-equipped kataeb were established in Misrata and in the Nafusa Mountains.

    8. Misrata, which saw some of the most protracted fighting during the conflict, witnessed the development of numerous kataeb that fought simultaneously on several fronts as the city was besieged by all sides but the sea. The fiercest fighting took place from mid-March until mid-May 2011, when Qadhafi forces withdrew from Tripoli Street in central Misrata. In its isolation during the conflict, Misrata developed its own leadership under the command of Khalifa Zway, who headed the local Misrata Council, and included representatives from the Misrata Military Council and Security Committee. In financing the conflict, Misrata largely relied on private donations from wealthy Misratan individuals, as well as weapons reaching Misrata by the sea from Benghazi and Malta.

    9. According to information received by the Commission, the weapons and vehicles available to the thuwar initially comprised equipment taken from Qadhafi forces, such as AK-47 rifles, rocket propelled grenades (RPG) and the signature anti-aircraft machine guns mounted on pick-up trucks. As the conflict progressed, thuwar used heavy weapons seized in battle including tanks and Grad rockets, particularly in Sirte and Bani Walid.

    10. Thuwar forces are also believed to have received equipment from foreign countries, including Qatar and France, including uniforms and communication equipment.83 Weapons were smuggled into Libya through the Tunisia border. They were also distributed from Benghazi and Malta to the besieged city of Misrata by sea.

    11. In the Nafusa Mountains, numerous regionally-based kataeb were formed from the onset of the conflict in Zintan, Nalut, and Yafran, among others. As the conflict progressed, control was centralized around the Western Military Council based in Zintan, which reportedly not only coordinated operations in the Nafusa Mountains but also commanded thuwar in Al Zawiyah and the southern and western suburbs of Tripoli.84 The Nafusa Mountains were also used as a training ground for thuwar who escaped from Qadhafi controlled territory in Tripoli, Zowara and Al Zawiyah; and it was an important hub for supplies – weapons, food and medicines – smuggled across the Tunisian border, as well as flown in from Benghazi.

    12. Armed Misrata and Zintan kataeb, who participated in taking control of Tripoli in late August 2011, remain in the capital despite calls for their withdrawal. They continue to control strategic areas and buildings including the Tripoli International Airport, and maintain their own detention facilities in the capital. They share – and at times compete for - territorial control of the capital with the Tripoli Military Council headed by Abdelhakim Belhaj85, which also possesses its own procedures, detention facilities, weapons depots, and registration systems. Smaller military councils assume control on the neighbourhood level. According to one senior official, there are at least 132 military councils in Tripoli alone.86

    13. Since the close of hostilities at the end of October 2011, the number of reported cases of clashes between militias particularly in the capital has increased, in some cases leading to deaths and serious injuries.87 Some of these clashes witnessed the use of anti-aircraft machine guns in residential areas and near the Tripoli Central Hospital on Al Zawiyah Street. Since early December 2011, Tripoli residents have held protests at the central Martyrs’ Square (formerly Green Square) calling for the withdrawal of non-Tripoli kataeb and heavy weapons from the capital.

    14. According to a number of national and international organizations, members of the NTC, and other political observers88, the biggest challenge facing Libya today is convincing the multitude of kataeb to either disarm or join the Libyan National Army or police force.

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