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Democracy Now on the Battle for Tripoli and the Collapse of the Gaddafi Regime

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KHALED MATTAWA : --of a third son being captured, possibly Saadi.

AMY GOODMAN : Saadi is the third son.

KHALED MATTAWA : Saadi is--Saadi would--might potentially be tried for the mayhem in Benghazi, because he and Abdullah Senussi were in charge of Benghazi when the city had rebelled, and he's got blood on his hands for what had happened there. And I think he's a military man, militarily trained man, and he may be involved in--may have been involved in some of the military action in the past six months.

So, various, you know, legal action may be taken against these men. I hope they remain safe. I hope no--you know, that no vengeance is taken upon them. It's very important for Libya. What happens to these men, these Libyans, is very important to the direction of the revolution. And I hope all will keep a level head, because these men are as important for telling us what had happened and for the people, the victorious people, demonstrating justice. That's as important as the revolution itself. We rebelled in Libya, the people did, to install justice, to establish justice. And if we cannot do it with these men, we may not be willing or able to do it for each other. So, it's highly symbolic, and I hope they remain safe until they're tried.

AMY GOODMAN : Before we talk about the transitional government, I wanted to bring Fred Abrahams in, special adviser for Human Rights Watch's program office, just returned from Libya last Thursday. You--Human Rights Watch got into Libya. What did you find?

FRED ABRAHAMS : Well, the situation was very different, and events moved so quickly that we couldn't anticipate. We had two main thrusts of our research. We looked at the impact of the NATO strikes on civilians and allegations that civilians had died. And we looked at violations by the government, in particular, the arrests, disappearances, torture, conditions in the prisons, this crackdown in government-held territory. And we got to visit two prisons. But as I say, everything is up in the air now. We never thought it would crumble so quickly.

AMY GOODMAN : As for the NATO bombings, what did you find?

FRED ABRAHAMS : Well, two points on the NATO . I mean, one is that the government clearly tried to trump up these charges and allegations. We saw signs of manipulated sites--for example, baby bottles and medicines strewn about strategically. The government claimed 1,100 civilians had died because of NATO strikes, and we just didn't find the evidence to prove that.

But at the same time, there were some concerns. Definitely, in some of the sites we visited, some civilians did die. And how they died, why they died, if those were unlawful deaths in terms of laws of armed conflict, that remains to be seen. And the onus is on NATO . And that's our main point here. They should justify these attacks, more than just saying it was a military target, especially now that the conflict may be over. They can go back and say why they targeted some of these homes.

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AMY GOODMAN : And when it came to Gaddafi's forces?

FRED ABRAHAMS : Well, the documentation on Gaddafi abuses is just extreme, widespread, intense, horrible. And, you know, the crackdown in Tripoli, in western parts of Libya, was extreme. We don't know how many people were in the various prisons. The prison visits we had were restricted. They chose the prisoners we were talking with. They were not full visits. And I have to say something very troubling. We don't know what's happening to these prisoners now in places like Abu Salim, with the notorious political prison, how these prisoners are faring now. Reports that some of them are escaping, but definite concerns about their well-being today.

AMY GOODMAN : You spoke with the Libyan minister of justice?

FRED ABRAHAMS : We met with the minister of justice, with the general prosecutor. But I'll have to say something very clear. Those officials are so clearly subservient to the main force in Libya, which were the security services, and we did not have access to the internal security agency, the ministry of interior. Look, Libya was a police state, so even the minister of justice would take orders over the telephone from someone high up in internal security.

AMY GOODMAN : Let's go to Khaled Mattawa in Cairo about just who the transitional government is. Talk about the significance of the people who are in charge and what you expect to see.

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KHALED MATTAWA : The people in charge, such as Judge Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of the Transitional National Council, Dr. Mahmoud Jibril, who's the equivalent of the prime minister or head of the executive bureau, these are people who had tried to work with the regime in the past 10 years. Mahmoud Jibril had come from the United States to work as a kind of consultant. Mustafa Abdul Jalil had been a justice minister and has a good record as a judge, was recommended by Saif to serve in this capacity. They had been reformists. They had tried to do good from within. And now they've become statesmen.

I think what they lack--and it has shown in the performance of the NTC or TNC--is a lack of, you know, real managerial power and political skill, in the sense of anticipating events or managing them, particularly internally. I was in Benghazi a few weeks ago, and I thought that the things internally were not being run very well. And things culminated with the assassination of a minister--or the lead commander, Abdul Fatah Younis. It was really rather traumatic to have Benghazi experience that. And it seemed like things were going to unravel, but somehow things were pulled together by the victory in the west.

So, the leadership is civilian, technocratic and moderate, for the most part. Mustafa Abdul Jalil is a moderate Muslim. Mahmoud Jibril is a technocrat, academician. And that's who's in the leadership. In the background, there are some Islamist leaders, such as Ali al-Salabi, who's an Islamist scholar. He may be considered more conservative, some people may say a kind of extremist. He's a very powerful man.

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