UN Libya commission says government forces have committed war crimes

[JURIST] A three-person commission for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] appointed to investigate violence in Libya published a report [PDF] Wednesday saying that government forces have committed crimes against humanity and war crimes under orders from Libyan leader Mummar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and other high-ranking officials. The commission's 92-page report said Libyan authorities have committed crimes against humanity such as acts constituting murder, imprisonment, and other severe deprivations of physical liberties, torture, forced disappearances, and rape "as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack." The commission also says that there is consistent evidence of war crimes being committed in violation of the Rome Statute and that "consistent pattern of violations identified creates an inference that they were carried out as a result of policy decisions by [Gaddafi] and members of his inner circle." The report said estimates show 10,000–15,000 have been killed since protests began in February [JURIST report]. The commission also determined that the Libyan authorities were making "blanket" arrests, targeting those suspected of being opposition supporters rather than in connection with alleged criminal acts. The report said:

There is sufficient evidence to suggest that Government forces used excessive force against demonstrators, at least in the early days of the protests, leading to significant deaths and injuries. Such actions represented a serious breach of a range of rights under international human rights law, including the right to life, the right to security of person, the right to freedom of assembly and the right to freedom of expression.
The commission made specific recommendations for the government of Libya, including urging it to stop the violence against civilians in violation of applicable humanitarian and human rights law, to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, and to release all the prisoners who are being held for peaceful participation in the protests or for arbitrary reasons.

Last month, International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official websites] announced he is seeking arrest warrants [JURIST report] for Gaddafi and two others in his "inner circle" on charges of crimes against humanity. Ocampo has since sent a letter to Libyan Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi, warning against diplomats covering up crimes for Gaddafi. Further, Ocampo alleged that cover-ups in Libya go so far that any trace of a crime is destroyed. Ocampo revealed in April that his office had uncovered evidence [JURIST report] that Gaddafi planned to attack civilians to forestall regime-toppling revolution. Ocampo indicated that the plans were made in response to the conflicts in Tunisia and Egypt and included shooting civilians. In March, Ocampo told the press that he was 100 percent certain his office would bring charges [JURIST report] against Gaddafi. Also in March, the ICC launched a probe into allegations of crimes against humanity [JURIST report] by the Libyan government.

 

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