The Libyan government employed snipers, artillery, helicopter gunships, warplanes, anti-aircraft weaponry, and warships against demonstrations and funeral processions. Security forces and foreign mercenaries repeatedly used firearms, including assault rifles and machine guns, as well as knives against protesters.
Rebel fighter in hospital in Tripoli.
Amnesty International reported that writers, intellectuals and other prominent opposition sympathizers disappeared during the early days of the conflict in Gaddafi-controlled cities, and that they may have been subjected to torture or execution.
Amnesty International also reported that security forces targeted paramedics helping injured protesters. In multiple incidents, Gaddafi's forces were documented using ambulances in their attacks. Injured demonstrators were sometimes denied access to hospitals and ambulance transport. The government also banned giving blood transfusions to people who had taken part in the demonstrations. Security forces, including members of Gaddafi's Revolutionary Committees, stormed hospitals and removed the dead. Injured protesters were either summarily executed or had their oxygen masks, IV drips, and wires connected to the monitors removed. The dead and injured were piled into vehicles and taken away, possibly for cremation. Doctors were prevented from documenting the numbers of dead and wounded, but an orderly in a Tripoli hospital morgue estimated to the BBC that 600–700 protesters were killed in Green Square in Tripoli on 20 February. The orderly claimed that ambulances brought in three or four corpses at a time, and that after the ice lockers were filled to capacity, bodies were placed on stretchers or the floor, and that "it was in the same at the other hospitals".
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo estimated that 500–700 people were killed by security forces in February 2011, before the rebels took up arms. According to Moreno-Ocampo, "shooting at protesters was systematic".
Gaddafi suppressed protests in Tripoli by distributing automobiles, money and weapons for hired followers to drive around Tripoli and attack people showing signs of dissent. In Tripoli, "death squads" of mercenaries and Revolutionary Committees members patrolled the streets, and shot people who tried to take the dead off the streets or gather in groups.
The International Federation for Human Rights concluded that Gaddafi is implementing a strategy of scorched earth. The organization stated that "It is reasonable to fear that he has, in fact, decided to largely eliminate, wherever he still can, Libyan citizens who stood up against his regime and furthermore, to systematically and indiscriminately repress civilians. These acts can be characterized as crimes against humanity, as defined in Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court."
Gaddafi continued these tactics when the protests escalated into an armed conflict. During the siege of Misrata, Amnesty International reported "horrifying" tactics such as "indiscriminate attacks that have led to massive civilian casualties, including use of heavy artillery, rockets and cluster bombs in civilian areas and sniper fire against residents."
Executions of own soldiers
Gaddafi's military commanders summarily executed soldiers who refused to fire on protesters. The International Federation for Human Rights reported a case where 130 soldiers were executed. Some of the soldiers executed by their commanders were burned alive.
Prison sites and torture
Gaddafi imprisoned thousands or tens of thousands residents in Tripoli. Red Cross was denied access to these hidden prisons. One of the most notorious is a prison which was setup in a tobacco factory in Tripoli where inmates are reported to have been fed just half a loaf of bread and a bottle of water a day.
In late April, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice alleged that soldiers loyal to Gaddafi were given Viagra and encouraged to commit rapes in rebel-held or disputed areas. The allegations surfaced in an Al Jazeera report the previous month from Libya-based doctors, who claimed to have found Viagra in the pockets of government soldiers. Human rights groups and aid workers had previously documented rapes by loyalist fighters during the war. The British aid agency "Save the children" said it got reports that children were raped by unknown perpetrators, although the charity warns that these reports could not be confirmed.
In Misrata, a rebel spokesman claimed that government soldiers had committed a string of sexual assaults in Benghazi Street before being pushed out by rebels. A doctor claimed that two young sisters were raped by five Black African mercenaries after their brothers joined the rebels. According to aid workers, four young girls were abducted and held for four days, and were possibly sexually assaulted. In a questionnaire 259 refugee women reported that they had been raped by Gaddafi's soldiers, however the accounts of these women could not be independently verified as the psychologist who conducted the questionnaire claimed that "she had lost contact with them". The validity of the rape allegations is questioned by Amnesty International, which has not found evidence to back up the claims and notes that there are indications that on several occasions the rebels in Benghazi appeared to have knowingly made false claims or manufactured evidence.
Soon after Gaddafi's government started to use force against demonstrators, it became apparent that some Libyan military units refused to shoot protesters, and Gaddafi had hired foreign mercenaries to do the job. Gaddafi's ambassador to India Ali al-Essawi confirmed that the defections of military units had indeed led to such a decision. Video footage of this started to leak out of the country. Gaddafi's former Chief of Protocol Nouri Al Misrahi stated in an interview with the Al Jazeera that Nigerien, Malian, Chadian and Kenyan mercenaries are among foreign soldiers helping fight the uprising on behalf of Gaddafi. Defecting Libyan Deputy Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi called on African nations to stop sending mercenaries to defend the Gaddafi regime.
In Mali, members of the Tuareg tribe confirmed that a large number of men, about 5,000, from the tribe went to Libya in late February. Locals in Mali said they were promised €7,500 ($10,000) upfront payment and compensation up to €750 ($1,000) per day. Gaddafi has used Malian Tuaregs in his political projects before, sending them to fight in places like Chad, Sudan and Lebanon and recently they have fought against Niger government, a war which Gaddafi has reportedly sponsored. Malian government officials told BBC that it's hard to stop the flow of fighters from Mali to Libya. A recruitment center for Malian soldiers leaving to Libya was found in a Bamako hotel.
Reports from Ghana state that the men who went to Libya were offered as much as €1950 ($2,500) per day. Advertisements seeking mercenaries were seen in Nigeria with at least one female Nigerian pro-Gaddafi sniper being caught in late August outside of Tripoli. One group of mercenaries from Niger, who had been allegedly recruited from the streets with promises of money, included a soldier of just 13 years of age. The Daily Telegraph studied the case of a sixteen-year-old captured Chadian child soldier in Bayda. The boy, who had previously been a shepherd in Chad, told that a Libyan man had offered him a job and a free flight to Tripoli, but in the end he had been airlifted to shoot opposition members in Eastern Libya.
Reports by EU experts stated that Gaddafi's government hired between 300 and 500 European soldiers, including some from EU countries, at high wages. According to Michel Koutouzis, who does research on security issues for the EU institutions, the UN and the French government, "In Libyan society, there is a taboo against killing people from your own tribal group. This is one reason why Gaddafi needs foreign fighters," The Serbian newspaper Alo! stated that Serbs were hired to help Gaddafi in the early days of the conflict. Rumors of Serbian pilots participating on the side of Gaddafi appeared early in the conflict. A Belarusian told the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that he and several hundred others from Belarus had been recruited to advise Gaddafi's forces before the civil war and most of them left since then, but some preferred to stay. According to the newspaper report, published in early April, the Belarusian advisers were paid about €2,450 ($3,000) per month, did not participate in combat, but crafted strategies to help Gaddafi's brigades. Time magazine interviewed mercenaries from ex-Yugoslavia who fled Gaddafi's forces in August.
On 7 April, Reuters reported that soldiers loyal to Gaddafi were sent into refugee camps to intimidate and bribe black African migrant workers into fighting for the Libyan state during the war. Some of these "mercenaries" were compelled to fight against their wishes, according to a source inside one of the refugee camps.
According to numerous eyewitness accounts, mercenaries were more willing to kill demonstrators than Libyan forces were, and earned a reputation as among the most brutal forces employed by the government. A doctor in Benghazi said of the mercenaries that "they know one thing: to kill whose in front of them. Nothing else. They're killing people in cold blood".
On 19 March 2011 a multi-state coalition began a military intervention in Libya to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which was taken in response to events during the 2011 Libyan civil war. That same day, military operations began, with US and British forces firing cruise missiles, the French Air Force and British Royal Air Force undertaking sorties across Libya and a naval blockade by the Royal Navy.
Since the beginning of the intervention, the initial coalition of Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Norway, Qatar, Spain, UK and US has expanded to seventeen states, with newer states mostly enforcing the no-fly zone and naval blockade or providing military logistical assistance. The effort was initially largely led by France and the United Kingdom, with command shared with the United States. NATO took control of the arms embargo on 23 March, named Operation Unified Protector. An attempt to unify the military command of the air campaign (whilst keeping political and strategic control with a small group), first failed over objections by the French, German, and Turkish governments. On 24 March, NATO agreed to take control of the no-fly zone, while command of targeting ground units remains with coalition forces. The handover occurred on 31 March 2011 at 0600 GMT.