[JURIST] Libyan opposition forces on Thursday captured and killed former leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] in his hometown of Sirte, Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril [official profile] confirmed at a press conference. Military forces loyal to the newly formed government, the National Transitional Council (NTC) [website], took control of Sirte [Al Jazeera report] on Thursday and soon after found, captured and killed Gaddafi. The cause of death is unknown, but eyewitnesses claim that he died from gunshot wounds [AP report]. Also on Thursday, Libyan Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam confirmed the death [Al Jazeera report] of Gaddafi’s son, Mutassim Gaddafi. Officials have also announced the arrests of Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and former Gaddafi spokesman Moussa Ibrahim. Libyan civilians and NTC officials celebrated the news of Gaddafi’s death, and several world leaders expressed relief and support for Libya. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] said the day marked “an historic transition” for the country and urged Libyans to stop fighting and promote peace [UN News Centre report].
Gaddafi’s death marks the latest milestone in the Libya conflict [JURIST feature], which began in February [JURIST report] as part of a wider protest movement that had spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Gaddafi and his supporters have been on the run since August, when rebel forces supported by the NTC captured the capital city of Tripoli. Earlier in the summer, the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] had issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] for Gaddafi for crimes against humanity, although some commentators suggested that Gaddafi should face trial in Libya [JURIST op-ed]. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] published a 92-page report saying that Libyan authorities committed crimes against humanity [JURIST report] under Gaddafi’s direct orders during the conflict, including 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.” Gaddafi ruled Libya as a dictator for 42 years after taking power in a coup, and was known for his eccentricity and for the tight control he kept over the country.