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HRW alleges Libya war crimes during capture of Sirte

Scores of Muammar Gaddafi [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] loyalists, and perhaps Gaddafi himself, were "summarily executed" when rebels sacked the ruler's final stronghold last year, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported [text] Wednesday. According to HRW, when a team of researchers with the group arrived in Sirte [press release] following the battle they found "the decomposing remains of at least 53 people at the nearby Mahari Hotel, some with their hands still bound behind their backs." The report, entitled "Death of a Dictator: Bloody Vengeance in Sirte," details the last hours of Gaddafi's life and the circumstances that eventually led to Gaddafi's execution. According to the report:

Anti-Gaddafi forces captured alive an estimated 150 persons after the battle. They transported some 70 of these survivors to Misrata and held them there in custody, but at least 53 and possibly as many as 66 people were found dead the next day at the nearby Mahari Hotel. Amateur video footage recorded by a Misrata fighter shows 29 of the detained persons being beaten, slapped, insulted and spat upon by their captors, at the place of their capture. Six of the twenty-nine in the video have been identified by Human Rights Watch as being among the bodies photographed later on the grounds of the Mahari Hotel.
HRW noted that the execution of prisoners is a war crime and that "Libyan civilian and military authorities have an obligation to investigate war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law."

Gaddafi's death marked a milestone in the Libya conflict [JURIST backgrounder], which began in February 2011 [JURIST report] as part of a wider protest movement, commonly referred to as the "Arab Spring," that had spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In August Libya elected [JURIST report] a Gaddafi opponent to be interim president. Last October family members of Gaddafi filed a complaint [JURIST report] against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with the International Criminal Court for its alleged role in Gaddafi's death. Also last October, the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights [official website] called for a full investigation [JURIST report] into his death.

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