Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi sent his soldiers and mercenaries, armed with Viagra, to rape women as young as 12 in order to "humiliate" the men who are opposed to him, the health minister for the Libyan rebels told ABC News.
More than a dozen rape cases, documented by Dr. Nagi Barakat, prompted the International Criminal Court to accuse Gadhafi of using rapes as a weapon of war.
"I think the tactic of Gadhafi is always to try to humiliate Libyans. One thing he knows, the dignity of women is very important to men... He wants to humiliate them even more by having mercenaries do it," Barakat told ABC News in an exclusive interview. "It is a very dirty tactic that Gadhafi is doing."
He cited one man whose two daughters were allegedly raped.
"Their father wants to kill himself rather than face them. He's ashamed that he didn't protect them," Barakat said.
The accusations, difficult to independently verify, are being investigated by a rebel commission and by the ICC.
"We have information to confirm that it was a policy in Libya to rape those who were against the government," said ICC prosecutor Louis Moreno-Ocampo. "Rape is a new aspect of the repression."
Some of the rape victims have fled Libya after their ordeal, seeking medical treatment, including abortions, a member of the rebel government told ABC News.
"We have a committee investigating, trying to keep it as confidential as possible. Three in Tunisia and 12 in Ajdabiya," Barakat said.
"All of them were young women, some of them married, most of them were not. The youngest we have is 12," he said.
The attackers, he said, had their orders.
"They have Viagra in their pockets. Gadhafi has encouraged them to do this, so have their commanders," Barakat said. Some of the rapists were foreign mercenaries, an especially difficult point for victims and their families.
"This is a very sensitive issue and it's a very cultural thing," Barakat said. He said the women are worried they could contract AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases as a result of the attacks. But the assaults also have social ramifications for Libyan women.
"The women they just don't talk... They feel they have no hope in life after they've been raped, especially by mercenaries," he said. "If a woman is unmarried, if the people hear about it, it's very unlikely she will get married."
"We feel some of them might commit suicide. They have been shamed... They need a lot of counseling," Barakat said.
"It's a scar and Libya will never forget it," he said.
Al Jazeera has aired footage of Viagra distributed to security forces, and Moreno-Ocampo suggested it may have been a policy of the Gadhafi regime to distribute the male sex enhancement medication.
Gadhafi Regime Accused of Using Rape As a Weapon
Gadhafi is already under warrant for arrest by the ICC, accused of committing crimes against humanity since the start of a popular uprising in February. The four-decade dictator and his son, Saif Al Islam, allegedly recruited mercenaries to attack demonstrators.
In April one woman identified as Iman Al-Obeidi claiming to have been gang raped by Gadhafi's forces approached reporters in Tripoli with her story.
"I kept fighting back. I hit back a lot and I kept fighting," she told the Associated Press. "They eventually tied my arms and legs together."
She has since been relocated to a U.N. refugee camp in Romania.
"It's really one of the most effective ways of victimizing and terrorizing communities," said Liesl Gerntholtz of Human Rights Watch.
"Particularly in a place like Libya where family honor is very important, you really undermine these incredibly important values for these communities...They are rapes that are very much about subjugation and dominance of the whole community, not just of the women and girls," Gerntholtz wrote on the group's web site.
Libyan diplomat Mustafa Shaban today denied the accusation of the rapes and other human rights violations.
"We also deny indications of widespread and systematic attacks against civilians, or extrajudicial killings, or arbitrary arrest, detention and torture, or other abuses indicated in the report," Shaban said. He blamed the ICC's conclusions on "fabricated and erroneous information reported by media that is hostile to my country."