x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Revenge in Libya risks more horrors

Human nature at its worst is revealing itself in Libya, as sites of heinous massacres are now being uncovered. Justice must be served, but the thirst for revenge must also be tempered. More victims will only make justice more difficult.

Dreadful scenes have emerged in parts of Tripoli, revealing the cost Libyans have paid for their freedom. On Sunday, charred bodies of as many as 53 people were found in a warehouse near a military camp. Apparently Qaddafi forces had stacked the bodies in the warehouse, thrown grenades on to them and then piled burning tyres on them to set them on fire.

At another massacre site, more than 150 decomposing bodies, including those of teenagers, were found at a private hospital. This is human nature at its worst, reminders of pictures we have seen of Srebrenica, the Rwandan massacres and the atrocities at the Sabra and Shatila camps.

These victims are people's parents, siblings and children. There will inevitably be calls for justice and impassioned pleas for accountability. And also, amid the many armed fighters now on Libya's streets, there will be demands for revenge.

Libyans from every walk of life, and from every faction, will be affected by these scenes of workers carrying black body bags. As news of the atrocities unfold, Libya is already beset by chaos and confusion. The country is suffering from shortages in basic needs such as water, medicine and fuel.

Under these conditions, the National Transitional Council (NTC) will have an enormous challenge to maintain security in the street and restrain reprisal attacks. The NTC chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil has warned against revenge attacks, threatening to resign, but this will be a difficult test in the coming days.

Among the victims at the hospital were suspected mercenaries from Sub-Saharan countries. Many black Africans have been arrested on unfounded suspicions of having worked for the former regime. Now, many innocent individuals will for their safety.

There have been many civilians killed in accidental crossfire and deliberately. There will have to be answers about how all parties -rebels, Qaddafi loyalists and Nato forces- conducted this war.

But first, the NTC must prevent acts of revenge in the near term, which will require foreign assistance to begin restoring a climate of security. The mass murders should be investigated and perpetrators punished in a fair judicial process. More victims will only make that more difficult.