Militia from the Libyan city of Misrata are torturing and terrorizing the displaced supporters of deceased former leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], according to a report [text] released Sunday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. Most of the victims are either unarmed civilians or detainees. HRW interviewed about 61 Tawerghans across the country including 26 people in detention in and around Misrata and 35 displaced residents of Tawergha currently staying in Tripoli, Heisha and Hun. Information from the interviews revealed that the Misrata militia are engaged in alleged terror activities including beating detainees to death, shooting civilians and forcing displacements. The militias are accusing the Tawerghans of committing crimes, such as rape and murder, with Gaddafi forces during their siege of Misrata, especially in March and May. Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch [advocacy website], stressed the importance of rule of law:
Revenge against the people from Tawergha, whatever the accusations against them, undermines the goal of the Libyan revolution. In the new Libya, Tawerghans accused of wrongdoing should be prosecuted based on the law, not subject to vigilante justice... The entire town of Tawergha should not be punished for the crimes of some individuals. Prosecutions of people who committed serious crimes are the way forward, with respect for victims' privacy, not the forced expulsion of the entire town.HRW recommends several measures for Misrata's civil and military leaders in order to establish justice and support the rule of law including punishment of those who harass or attack Tawerghans, clarification of orders to avoid mental and physical abuses during arrests and transfer of detainees to facilities run by the National Transitional Council (NTC) [official website] in Tripoli or Benghazi.
Last week, the interim Libyan leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil [official profile] ordered an investigation [JURIST report] into the circumstances surrounding the capture and death of Gaddafi, which raised questions of whether the former leader was killed due to his wounds during the fight or whether he was killed by his own supporters to prevent him from implicating them in any crimes under his regime. On October 20, Gaddafi was captured and killed [JURIST report] by NTC during its seizure of his hometown, Sirte, marking the latest milestone in the Libya conflict [JURIST feature] that started in February. The Libyan government under the regime of Gaddafi was criticized by the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] for war crimes [JURIST report] during the siege of Misrata.