UPDATE: Libya on Lynch Alert

Liberated Libya targets sub-Saharan migrant workers along with mercenaries.

This sub-Saharan African woman does not look like a mercenary, but she does look like someone who needs to hide from Libyan rebels. (Photo: Zohra Bensemra/Reuters)

Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

UPDATE: September 1, 2011

Western media is confirming reports today that Libyan rebels are rounding up thousands of black Africans in and around Tripoli. Migrants, male and female, are being detained in improvised pens across the city. Almost all of the Africans claim to be innocent workers, and almost all of the Africans are accused of being mercenaries who fought for Muammar Gaddafi.

The Associated Press reports:

Aladdin Mabrouk, a spokesman for Tripoli's military council, said no one knows how many people have been detained in the city, but he guessed more than 5,000. While no central registry exists, he said neighborhood councils he knows have between 200 and 300 prisoners each. The city of 1.8 million has dozens of such groups.

Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagi told reporters this week that he'd visited several detention centers and found conditions "up to international standards."

"We are building a Libya of tolerance and freedom, not of revenge," he said.

Previous accounts of sub-Saharan detainees who were executed while their hands were tied behind their backs contradict al-Alagi’s vision of tolerance and freedom.


While governments of the free world congratulate Libyan opposition forces on overthrowing a murderous and quite possibly insane dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, the United Nations and three human rights organizations are hedging their celebrations: Evidence abounds that rebel fighters are executing sub-Saharan pro-Gaddafi mercenaries in summary reprisal killings. In an even more disturbing trend, freedom fighters appear to be lynching sub-Saharan migrant workers who played no part in the conflict.

Sub-Saharan migrant workers face deep hostility in liberated Libya.

Reports of migrants being murdered by rebels date back to February. In April, the government of Chad called upon coalition forces to protect its citizens who were stranded in opposition strongholds. At the time, 300,000 migrants from Chad were in Libya, among an estimated sub-Saharan workforce of 3 million. The migrants were imperiled by association when the Gaddafi regime, according to BBC sources, bolstered its forces with 10,000 Africans recruited from Sudan, Chad, Mali and Niger.

This past weekend, with Gaddafi loyalists largely routed in the capital city Tripoli, that peril crossed over to slaughter.

From the Independent:

The killings had taken place at a makeshift hospital, in a tent marked clearly with the symbols of the Islamic Crescent. Some of the dead were on stretchers, attached to intravenous drips. Some were on the back of an ambulance that had been shot at. Around 30 men lay decomposing in the heat. Many of them had their hands tied behind their back. Almost all of the victims were black men.

“It is crucial that humanitarian law prevails and that refugees and migrant workers are fully and properly protected,” responded United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. “Africans especially can be particularly vulnerable to acts of vengeance.”

Amnesty International cites violence directed at migrant workers in the coastal town of Zawiyah. Martin Jerrett, the head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Benghazi, says the IOM is desperate to extricate sub-Saharan migrant workers pinned in the crossfire, and that Africans face deep hostility in liberated Libya. Back in March, Human Rights Watch warned that thousands of guest workers in Libya had been stripped of their possessions and urgently needed evacuation. Since then, the situation has become only more dangerous for any sub-Saharan worker who remains in Libya.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Organization for Migration can keep you informed. The United Nations Refugee Agency has programs in place and can use your assistance.

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