By Tyler Yates
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
TRIPOLI, Libya — The bodies of 267 people were discovered in Sirte, the birthplace of Qaddafi. A source from the Red Cross noted that most of the dead appeared to be Qaddafi supporters. The finding highlights what seems to be growing evidence of war crimes that occurred in the almost nine month Libyan conflict.
Officials told a local newspaper that it appeared the people were executed and then buried in mass graves.
The finding is just one in what has become a series.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently uncovered 53 bodies in an abandoned Sirte hotel.
95 other bodies were discovered at the site where Qaddafi was captured. HRW said that most of those individuals had been killed in fighting or as a result of NATO airstrikes, however at least 10 of the bodies showed evidence of having been executed.
In September, a mass grave was discovered near the infamous Abu Salim prison in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. It contained the remains of 1,200 bodies. According to the accounts of former innmates the Qaddafi forces spent three hours shooting prisoners.
Medical officials in Sirte reported that the bodies of 23 anti-Qaddafi fighters were identified in mid-October.
The Libyan conflict has led the international community to conclude that both Qaddafi’s forces, and the anti-government rebel forces have been guilty of war crimes.
Amnesty International has noted that while Qaddafi’s forces did commit serious violations of international humanitarian law, members and supporters of the opposition, loosely structured under the National Transitional Council (TNC), are also guilty of war crimes and human rights abuses, “albeit on a smaller scale.”
Its report stated that members and supporters of the Libyan opposition “unlawfully killed” more than a dozen Qaddafi loyalists between April and July, and that some rebel supporters had “shot, hanged and otherwise killed through lynching dozens of captured soldiers and suspected mercenaries.”
The family of the deceased Qaddafi are planning on filing a complaint for war crimes against NATO with the International Criminal Court (ICC). Their claim is based upon the idea that it was NATO’s actions since February 2011 that led to Qaddafi’s death.
There are numerous questions surrounding the death of Qaddafi who appeared to be alive at the time of his initial capture by the TNC. He died from a shot in the head, but the circumstances of how that happened have yet to be revealed.
Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the son of the deceased dictator, is, according to officials in the TNC, attempting to arrange transportation to fly him out of his current refuge and into the custody of the ICC. The decision was likely influenced by the violent killing of his father at the hand of the Libyan rebels, a fate he is attempting to escape.
The ICC is attempting to confirm this story so it can work out the best way to move the younger Qaddafi safely to the Hague.
The TNC is weighing its options with regards to trying the younger Qaddafi, though they did make it clear that if he was captured in Libya he would be tried according to traditional Libyan law.
The international community is putting the TNC under increasing pressure to lead investigations into the possible commission of war crimes by both sides. It would be difficult for the TNC to bring their own supporters to court without facing a serious public backlash, however not holding the guilty responsible would just continue the human rights abuse impunity that acted a great motivator for the revolution.
The identity of the new Libya has yet to be formed, and a huge power vacuum is still looming in Tripoli. The way it handles the clean up of its revolution will be a big indicator to what direction it is headed.
For more information, please see:
CNN — Lawyer: Gadhafi family to file war criminal complaint against NATO — 27 Oct. 2011
Reuters — Gaddafi son seeks flight to Hague war crimes court — 27 Oct. 2011
International Business Times — Hundreds of Gaddafi Supporters Killed in New ‘War Crime’ — 26 Oct. 2011
The Nation — Libya After Qaddafi — 26 Oct. 2011
NPR — Foreign Policy: Was Killing Gadhafi A War Crime? — 24 Oct. 2011