Fonte: The New York Times
TRIPOLI, Libya — Where are all the dead?
Officially, according to Libya’s new leaders, their martyrs in the struggle against the government of Col.Muammar el-Qaddafi should number 30,000 to 50,000, not even counting their enemies who have fallen.
Yet in the country’s morgues, the war dead registered from both sides in each area so far are mostly in the hundreds, not the thousands. And those who are still missing total as few as 1,000, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Those figures may be incomplete, but even if the missing number proves to be three times as high, and all are dead, the toll would be far short of official casualty totals.
On Friday, anti-Qaddafi fighters attacked the two remaining strongholds of the loyalist forces, in the seaside city of Surt and the desert town of Bani Walid. Although both assaults were repulsed by determined resistance from the pro-Qaddafi forces, there can be little doubt that the war is in its final phases. And as it winds down, the question of how many died is taking on greater significance.
The death toll from the Libyan uprising is unarguably horrendous, even if it does not fit neatly into the former rebels’ narrative of a David-and-Goliath struggle against a bloodthirsty regime that slaughtered tens of thousands of the helpless and the innocent. It has also become a politically delicate issue, with some new government officials refusing to release hard statistics on casualties and human rights groups cautious about taking a definitive position.
The new authorities say the confirmed death toll will rise with the discovery of mass graves where the Qaddafi government hid its victims, both during its final months and as it collapsed and fled Tripoli and other population centers.
Mass graves of recent vintage have indeed been found — 13 of them confirmed by the Red Cross, or “about 20” found by the government, according to the Transitional National Council’s humanitarian coordinator, Muattez Aneizi. More are being found “nearly every day,” Mr. Aneizi said.
“Mass” is slightly misleading, however, because the largest actual grave site found so far, in the Nafusah Mountains of western Libya, had 34 bodies. In many of the others, the victims numbered only in the single digits. Many are not even graves, but rather containers or buildings where people were executed and their bodies left to rot.
The Red Cross counted only 125 dead from the 13 sites it confirmed, with 53 of those found in a hangar near Tripoli’s airport. While the rebels may not have died in the numbers their side has claimed, there is no doubt that many were killed, often horribly, after having been taken prisoner. As the Qaddafi government collapsed and its die-hards fled from Tripoli and other strongholds, such war crimes happened in many well-documented cases. They just did not happen in many thousands of cases, judging from the available evidence.
There has been no explanation of the basis for either the council’s tally of 30,000 to 50,000 dead, or the number preferred by the new government’s minister of health, Naji Barakat, a more modest 25,000 to 30,000.
At the Ministry of Health, Mohammed al-Ghazwi, who leads a newly formed Committee on the Dead, charged with confirming death tolls from the conflict, was reluctant to give any numbers out. “Every day we find another grave, so I can’t give you a specific number,” Mr. Ghazwi said. “But it’s about twenty-five to thirty thousand, like the minister of health said.”
Asked how many of those were based on documented cases of dead found so far, he said they were many fewer, but he could not give a number. “It’s very hard to tell the real number because during the Qaddafi time they hid all of them,” Mr. Ghazwi said.
In Tripoli, there are two morgues, but most victims who die violent deaths are taken to one of them, at Tripoli Central Hospital. There, according to Ali al-Kerdasi, a member of the hospital’s media committee, the dead since Aug. 25 totaled 700. Mr. Kerdasi said 600 people had been reported missing by relatives who came to the hospital to try to find them; 113 pictures of missing people are posted on the hospital’s emergency ward walls.
The figure of 700 dead may not have included all of those who died in the first days of the final battle for the city, from Aug. 20, when the main hospitals were in the hands of government forces for the first few days, and relatives may have buried some of the dead without taking them to the morgue as required by law.
At the site of the other morgue, at Tripoli Medical Center, Dr. Hossam Algedar, head of the center’s missing persons team, said he was not allowed to release information on the numbers of dead and missing. On the walls of that hospital, fliers show at least 127 missing people.
Bodies of people who have not yet been identified are shown, with their photos, on the team’s Facebook page; they total 52. Dr. Algedar said that was only a partial list.Dr. Algedar does not hesitate to confirm the widely quoted figure of dead and missing. “Thirty to fifty thousand is a credible number,” he said. “The destination of the missing is a mystery.”
His view is shared by Dr. Othman el-Zentani, a forensic pathologist who has been put in charge of the National Council of the Missing, joining various ministries and international agencies like the Red Cross in an effort to rationalize the lists of missing.
The group has yet to have its first full meeting, but Dr. Zentani confidently predicted that the dead or missing might surpass 20,000. “Why not?” he said. “It’s a seven-month-long struggle, everywhere by all kinds of weapons, so I don’t doubt that.”
Everyone agrees that the toll, whatever it may be, would have been much higher if Colonel Qaddafi’s forces had held out in Tripoli for as long as people had feared. Instead, most victims there died from Aug. 20 to Aug. 26. “Tripoli has fallen in a few days; it was not a Beirut or a Gaza,” said Carole Pittet of the Red Cross.
The estimate of 1,000 missing by the Red Cross includesmany migrant workers, Ms. Pittet said, and was gathered by field offices in Tripoli; Misurata, scene of the worst fighting; and Benghazi, where the revolution began.
Even in Benghazi, where fighting raged for weeks before NATO intervened to turn the tide against loyalists, casualties may not have been much higher than in Tripoli. According to Omar Babdous, head of tracing for the Red Crescent Society’s Benghazi office, 850 people were confirmed killed during the fighting in Benghazi and the area around it, while 1,350 are listed as missing.
In Misurata, a much smaller city than either Tripoli or Benghazi, the death toll was worse than anywhere else in Libya. Misurata’s authorities have identified 1,083 dead on all sides, according to Abu Bakr Triebe, the head of the Misurata Medical Bureau, with 2,000 believed missing.
The missing totals in those three largest places add up to far more (exceeding 3,500) than the Red Cross figure for the whole country, even though Red Cross teams were gathering data in those cities as well. But with no centralized system of reconciling missing reports, it is not possible to know how much duplication there is or how many initially were reported missing but then found. And many Libyans may just have not reported missing people to the Red Cross.
Sidney Kwiram, a representative of Human Rights Watch who has been in Libya for much of the conflict, said it was too early for any conclusions about the toll of missing and dead. Some of the missing may still be held by pro-Qaddafi forces inside Surt, where there is a military police detention center. Many rebels were buried by relatives and friends to avoid risking dangerous contact with the authorities. “In Tripoli, people even stopped taking their loved ones to the hospitals out of fear,” Ms. Kwiram said.
Much of the official death toll is based on the theory that there were 30,000 prisoners before the fall of the Qaddafi government, when prisons were all opened, and only 9,000 were found alive. The problem is, no one actually knows how many prisoners there were, and no one actually counted how many were released.
“The numbers you’re hearing in the press, they’re just basically guesses,” said Stefan Schmitt, a forensic anthropologist with Physicians for Human Rights, who was in Libya recently to advise the authorities on how to handle mass graves. “It’s too early to really know.”