Gaddafi fighter recounts her nightmare war (and war crimes)

An interesting story in the aftermath of the fall of Tripoli has arisen. Euronews retells the story and interviews a Gadaffi loyalist which has committed heinous war crimes. Follow the previous jump to see the video and read the full story.

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One 19 year-old woman was a sniper. Now she is to stand trial for executing 16 rebel prisoners.

She claims that she was forced by her family to leave her hometown of Zawiah and join up a year ago. She adds she had worked in an office until only recently. Then the nightmare began. The killing, and the rape by three officers she identified by name, including a General.

Now she can only hope for forgiveness from the victims’ families, or she could face a death penalty.

They gave me a weapon and each time they brought me one or two people and asked me to kill them. They were around me all the time, two on each side and one behind, and they told me ‘Kill them or you will be killed’.

Then they put some more under some trees and asked me to shoot.

Yes, I shot them, But each time I turned my head away when I fired.”

question:

“How do you feel about this job they forced you to do now?”

“I regret it, I really regret it.”

question:

“How were you treated in the Gaddafi forces?”

“Not well at all.”

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Her regret is not a legal defense and is merely an invocation of what is generally known as the Nürnberg defense. She claims to have only "followed orders", which is not an excuse for her crimes. Her duty as a soldier is to deny fulfilling orders which are against the Geneva Convention and international law, despite the threat to her own health and life. She has failed in that duty.

It is easy to be sympathetic to her story, but it should not divert the attention from the evil deeds she has committed. As a soldier, she must face the same punishment as every other soldier which has committed war crimes in the fighting: death penalty. (I am not in favor of the death penalty in any condition, and hope she and all other war criminals will be incarcerated for life. But more important is equal punishment for equal crimes.)

It may also be used as an argument against placing women on the battle field as their penchant for violence in clearly no less that of men, and the threat of rape is more tangible than towards men. It is also much easier to sympathize with their position, and it will be interesting to see how this case develops.

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Comment by Steve on August 28, 2011 at 10:37am
Legally, you'd really have to know if she was an army regular, which I doubt. She wasn't a sniper (that's just a poor journalist's embellishment). And if that article tells the whole story not even a soldier. Just a civilian forced to pick up a gun to kill other civilians. So, military ethics don't entirely apply to her actions. At least insofar as her own responsibility for the executions is concerned.

And I'd have as much sympathy for a man who is forced to kill others or be killed himself. Doesn't make it right, but it's certainly a gray area
Comment by Arcus on August 28, 2011 at 10:45am

If she wished to be a consciousness objector and not join the military she could. She chose not to and must face the consequences of that choice. 

Soldier ethics is different than civilian ethics, and your life is literally on the line. She chose wrong at every turn and now expects sympathy. I'd rather be a concentration camp detainee than a concentration camp guard, she chose otherwise.

Comment by Steve on August 28, 2011 at 10:55am
The point is that we don't know if she was in the military. With that I mean the regular army. Not some improvised outfit or an impressed civilian whom they handed a gun when the situation became bad. The article really doesn't provide ANY details about that.

Until we know, applying solely military ethics to this is pointless
Comment by Arcus on August 28, 2011 at 11:02am

She is, by her own admission, a soldier. She was also under the command of the military. She was also fighting against the population.

Read the story, all the facts are there.

Comment by Unseen on August 28, 2011 at 12:11pm

I think Libya should follow the example of South Africa, allowing loyalists to the previous government to confess their crimes in detail in exchange for governmental forgiveness. Only the leaders should face death, long term imprisonment, or exile. The government should take the lead in terms of "no more violence" to set an example for the person on the street.

Comment by Arcus on August 28, 2011 at 12:32pm

Very good point Unseen.

I guess it comes down to compassion vs justice. It's difficult for me to be compassionate towards someone who have killed unarmed prisoners. I was a soldier and have had a lot of this moralizing drilled into me, when killing is justified and remorseless vs when I should choose to die or defect in opposition of orders. Soldiers main mantra is killing is only justified in self preservation (attack/defense) and compassion (battlefield triage).

I truly hate soldiers who follow orders only to save their own asses...

Comment by Unseen on August 28, 2011 at 2:18pm

Come on. It's hard for Americans to put themselves in the mindset of people in a culture where not going along with whomever the local person with a gun wants can result not just in one's own death but can have fatal repercussions for friend and family as well.

 

"Justice" implies that a preexisting system of fair justice was actually in place, not just a high-falutin cerebral and idealistic system of Nurembergesque bumper sticker notions.

 

Nuremberg is the sort of thing a winner imposes on a loser. If you want to believe in something like universal human rights or universal standards of conduct, then you need to stop being an atheist. God can justify such a concept. Without God, then it's just something a bunch of people believed at a certain time in history. Still, just beliefs, not facts.

Comment by Steve on August 28, 2011 at 2:31pm
Religion is just behavior people agree to as well. It's entirely man-made rules and people are told the lie that they come from a higher power. The rules just change a lot more slowly than secular ones, but they do change.

Religion can justify absolutely anything. So can any other system. But a system that's based on reason, discussion, experience and empiricism is still vastly superior to anything else. Of course we can agree what universal human rights are. It's not any different from agreeing what kind of civil or criminal law we want. And the ways to enforce it are exactly the same.
Comment by Arcus on August 28, 2011 at 2:41pm

@Alicia:

"it doesn't say she was in the military"

It does. She admits to having been loyal to Gadaffi and her actions clearly prove it. Your defense would not hold the guards of Auschwitz liable for their actions.

"The fact that she was under the command of the military structure has about the same meaning."

It does. You are invoking the Nürnberg defense on her actions.

"we can't know for certain whether the Geneva Conventions will apply."

The convention applies to anyone, voluntary or not, which enters for military service. I was conscripted and faced with military felony charges, including life imprisonment (we don't have death sentence). Even that does not adjudicate me of following the rules. I am not a US citizen, yet I have to follow US laws. Or can I follow my own moral compass when not in my home country?

"Also, in the whatever military you were in, when was the last time your superiors raped you, kidnapped you, held a gun to your head and forced you to shoot prisoners?"

Whatever evil befalls you does not relinquish responsibility upon evils committed towards others. If Lynndie England had a similar story, would it free her from criminal prosecution?

"a little bit of sympathy to the woman is warranted."

Why? German concentration guards were conscripted. They were found guilty of their actions. Their commanders hanged, the rest imprisoned.

"also, where does she "admit" she was a soldier?"

'join up', i.e. join up the Libyan armed services long before the revolution took place (it started 6 months ago, she joined 1 year ago). She subsequently chose not to defect or be killed herself. A soldiers duty is to protect civilians, their own lives are inconsequential. Her life is a matter of amount of bullets taken to kill her by the enemy. Most likely around 100 bullets at around 20 cents a piece. My life, according to my government, is worth 47 seconds.

"she's not claiming a Nuremberg defense"

Then she must be held accountable for her acts as if not under orders. She therefore voluntarily chose to kill several unarmed people. If she was ordered (threats are not considered a valid defense), and complied, you have a Nürnberg defense.

"Not sure about international law"

Soldiers are personally responsible for their all their acts in wartime and are held personally responsible. I am sure of this as I have been one. You are not permitted to follow orders against the Geneva convention or international law, no matter the personal consequences to yourself.

"but someone putting a gun to your head does seem to change the situation a bit, don't you think?"

As a soldier: No. You have to run into a hail of enemy bullets if so ordered and not shot non-combatants. Military law is as simple as it is harsh. There is no leeway because the consequences are atrocious.

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Why the sympathy vote? Soldiers are tools, not people.

Comment by Unseen on August 28, 2011 at 2:53pm

@Steve You're right but in a very limited way. When it comes to laws, those laws are formulated by people we chose through democratic vote to represent us, in essence giving them permission to not just write the laws but establish a system of administration and enforcement and apply them to us should we violate them. To apply a standard of justice to a people or nation from the outside implies an overarching metaphysical system that exists on its own apart from us, such as a God can provide, or else the naked application of a superior force on a weaker one.

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