A UN expert panel says in a draft report that forces loyal to late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and opposition fighters both committed war crimes during the conflict in the country last year.
The UN-appointed International Commission of Inquiry on Libya concluded that “international crimes, specifically crimes against humanity and war crimes, were committed by Gaddafi forces”.
“Acts of murder, enforced disappearance and torture were perpetrated within the context of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population,” it said.
Anti-Gaddafi forces also committed serious violations “including war crimes and breaches of international human rights law”, according to the report.
Human rights abuses by former rebels are continuing, particularly against those perceived to have sided with Gaddafi, it said.
The panel led by Canadian judge Philippe Kirsch was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council on February 25, 2011, to investigate allegations of serious crimes in Libya during and after the conflict.
It also examined claims that NATO’s air campaign had resulted in civilians being killed, and the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Gaddafi and his son Mutassim.
The panel said it was unable to reach a conclusion on either of those issues citing lack of evidence.
The report said that Gaddafi and his son, who were captured separately on October 20 by fighters from the port city of Misrata, died in unclear circumstances.
“Though wounded, both were alive on capture and subsequently died in thuwar (revolutionary) custody,” read an unedited version of the report submitted to the UN Council on Human Rights.
“The commission has been unable to confirm the death of Muammar Gaddafi as an unlawful killing and considers that further investigation is required,” it said, making the same recommendation in the case of Mutassim.
The experts urged further investigation, noting that the new government would need outside support to conduct credible probes.
Libyan authorities declined to provide the commission with access to Gaddafi’s autopsy report despite “numerous requests”, it said, noting that its pathologist could not conclude the cause of death from images of the corpse.
In Mutassim’s case, the commission was unable to obtain any “account of the circumstances of his death” but reviewed footage “showing him alive” after his capture.
“Both were killed in unclear circumstances after capture but it is apparent that both were initially captured alive,” the report said, recommending further investigation in both cases to determine the cause of death.
The UN report concluded that the subsequent display of the Gaddafi corpses in a meat locker in Misrata “constituted a breach of international customary law”.