By Monia Ghanmi
Both parties to the Libya conflict are guilty of rights abuses and unlawful killings, Amnesty International concluded in a new report.
“Kadhafi forces committed serious violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), including war crimes, and gross human rights violations, which point to the commission of crimes against humanity,” the group announced on September 13th.
The report was based on a three-month long fact-finding mission to Benghazi, Brega, Misrata, Ras Lanouf, Ajdabiya and al-Bayda. To reach its conclusions, the human rights watchdog conducted interviews with victims and victims’ families, doctors, eyewitnesses, fighters, lawyers and other professionals.
Moamer Kadhafi’s battalions “deliberately killed and injured scores of unarmed protesters; subjected perceived opponents and critics to enforced disappearance and torture and other ill-treatment; and arbitrarily detained scores of civilians”, according to the report. They “used inherently indiscriminate weapons such as antipersonnel mines and cluster bombs, including in residential areas”.
According to the UK-based organisation, rebel fighters also perpetrated abuses, “in some cases amounting to war crimes, albeit on a smaller scale”.
Amnesty International alleged that rebel forces had “abducted, arbitrarily detained, tortured and killed former members of the security forces, suspected Kadhafi loyalists, captured soldiers and foreign nationals wrongly suspected of being mercenaries”.
They took advantage of the “collapse of state institutions” and “a security and institutional vacuum” to engage in reprisals and score settling after the fall of the Kadhafi regime.
In this light, the rights group called on the National Transitional Council (NTC) to conduct “an impartial and thorough investigation … into all allegations of serious human rights violations”.
“Wherever there is sufficient admissible evidence, suspected perpetrators should be prosecuted in proceedings that fully respect international fair trial standards and with no imposition of the death penalty,” the group concluded.
“The ball is now in NTC’s court to change the course of things, put an end to violations and initiate the reforms that the country urgently needs in terms of human rights,” Amnesty Senior Director Claudio Cordone said.
The country’s fledgling government must speed up such probes and bring war criminals to justice, said Mohamed Abd Ghani, whose 22-year-old son was severely injured during the war.
“Every Libyan citizen is now wondering about the reasons,” he said. “Children want to know why they became orphans, and why their fathers were killed. Everyone must know what happened.”
In response to Amnesty’s findings, the National Transitional Council (NTC) confirmed its adherence to human rights principles and supremacy of law whether domestically or internationally. The violations perpetrated by rebel fighters were limited, the NTC insisted in a September 13th press release. The provisional government said it would act quickly to prevent such incidents.
To overcome “the legacy of four decades of human rights violations and abuse of power”, Libya’s leadership must do a complete review of laws and practices and build “an independent judiciary that ensures that no one is above the law and that no one is beyond its protection”, according to Amnesty International.
“Only then will Libyans be able to regain trust in national institutions and believe that the page has truly been turned on more than four decades of repression and abuse,” the report concluded.