Human Rights Watch (HRW) [official website] on Monday urged Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) [official website] to investigate the apparent "mass execution" [press release] of 53 Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] supporters whose bodies were discovered at an abandoned hotel in an area of Sirte that was under anti-Gaddafi control. HRW emergencies director Peter Bouckaert called on the NTC to immediately investigate and hold accountable those responsible for the killings. Witness reports to the HRW indicate that anti-Gaddafi supporters had been in control of the area in which the hotel was located since early October. Sirte residents, who were at the hotel when HRW arrived, said that they found the bodies two days prior. Bouckaert said, "[i]f the NTC fails to investigate this crime it will signal that those who fought against Gaddafi can do anything without fear of prosecution. ... This latest massacre seems part of a trend of killings, looting, and other abuses committed by armed anti-Gaddafi fighters who consider themselves above the law. ... It is imperative that the transitional authorities take action to rein in these groups." HRW noted that the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] has jurisdiction [JURIST report] to prosecute those responsible for war crimes committed in Libya after February 15 and can bring charges against those responsible for physically committing the crime, senior officials who give the orders and those in a position of authority who failed to stop the crimes or prosecute those responsible.
The call for the NTC to investigate the discovery of the bodies comes days after Gaddafi was captured and killed and the Libyan prime minister declared the official liberation [JURIST reports] from Gaddafi's regime. Gaddafi's death and Libya's liberation come as the latest of milestones [JURIST timeline] in the Libya conflict [JURIST backgrounder], which began in February as a protest in opposition to the arrest of a prominent human rights activist. The ICC warned Libya [JURIST report] in May against covering up possible war crimes that have occurred during the conflict, and stated those involved in a cover-up will be held accountable. Prior to Gaddafi's death, the ICC issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for him and two of his high-ranking officials for their involvement in crimes against humanity.