Libya: Rape as a Weapon of War

Posted by Phil Brennan

Throughout human conflict, rape has been used as one of the most inhumane weapons of war that an opposing army can inflict upon a civilian population. From old legends of Viking Raiders raping and pillaging across the British Isles, to recent civil wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, rape has always been used to subdue and terrify the civilian population regardless of what Geneva conventions have been signed against it. There is nothing new about enemy soldiers raping the civilian populations that they conquer.

So while others were disregarding tales of rape in Libya as unproven at best, and propaganda at worst, I remained silent, waiting for the evidence to come to light – knowing full well that Gaddafi’s military commanders are perfectly capable of ordering the mass rape of women and children in the cities that they besiege.

The first piece of evidence came about the use of rape as a weapon of war in March, when a lone woman entered the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli where western journalists were staying. As soon as Iman Al-Obeidi burst into the hotel she confronted journalists with allegations of gang rape by Gaddafi’s forces. Here is the Al Jazeera report from the 26th of March 2011:


The following day, on the 27th, Al Jazeera published another video report from Misrata, detailing suspicions that Gaddafi’s forces were being equipped with Viagra and Condoms in order to commit gang rapes against the civilian population there:


A very good video report, entitled “Women of the Libyan Revolution“, goes into much detail about the plight, and the resistance, of many of the women who have suffered terrible things during the liberation struggle:


There are now many reports of the rape of women and children in Libya, verified by independent observers and journalists – so many that the International Criminal Court have included using rape as a weapon of war to the inditements against Gaddafi and the other regime heads.

Meanwhile, efforts are being put in place to aid those who have fallen victim to Gaddafi’s forces. A petition to the National Transitional Council of Libya has been set up to highlight their plight and to ask for aid in the treatment and rehabilitation of the victims. Quoting from the Petition’s overview:

To the NTC

Gaddafi is using rape as a systematic method of war. Rape is happening everyday and mass rapes are taking place as we speak. The victims of such crimes are not only entitled to adequate medical treatment but also to psychological support and specialized therapy. Along the Tunisian boarder, a clinic taking care of victimized girls and women has successfully been established. Its female staff are trained to deal with these cases and has been of great support in helping the women to cope with the aftermath of their traumatic experiences.

We request that a similar clinic be set up inside Libya itself to specifically take care of the women and girls who have been traumatized by the effects of sexual abuse carried out by Gaddafi soldiers. A clinic with female staff and doctors who are specifically trained to handle rape and abuse cases is a vital prerequisite for the victims to cope with their horrific experiences and learn to live a normal life again.

It is not their fault to have been targets of a systematic machinery of war. Shaming them and abandoning them in this dire hour is only playing to Gaddafi’s advantage. Support by signing the petition to NTC to ensure they receive the psychological and physical support they need.

The petition may be found and signed here.

Those who gave and carried out the orders to rape women and children must be brought to justice. The Nuremberg Tribunal at the end of the Second World War dispensed with any excuse for the actions of soldiers based upon the premise that they were “only following orders”. In fact, the Twelfth NATO Protocol states, most explicitly, that all soldiers are to disobey any illegal orders handed to them by their officers, shooting the said officers on the spot if need be.

Now concerning our own military: I know there have been reports of the rape of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq. I would hope that any soldiers guilty of these offences would be dealt most severely by our own military and civilian courts, even though I suspect that our own criminal government would do everything in its power to cover up such offences.

Rape as a weapon of war must not only be condemned under the Geneva Conventions – it must be ruthlessly stamped out, and the perpetrators brought to trial.


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