'Gaddafi fighters may have shot Libyan rebel prisoners'

HRW: Evidence strongly suggests that Gaddafi government forces went on a spate of arbitrary killing as Tripoli was falling.

By REUTERS
August 28, 2011 12:59
2 minute read.
Captured soldiers loyal to Gaddafi.

Captured Gaddafi soldiers 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic )

TUNIS - Muammar Gaddafi's forces may have executed scores of prisoners and killed civilians as rebels overran the Libyan capital last week, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

Tripoli's streets are littered with rotting corpses and the debris of war after heavy fighting by rebels to end Gaddafi's 42-year rule, though the deposed leader remains at large.

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"The evidence we have been able to gather so far strongly suggests that Gaddafi government forces went on a spate of arbitrary killing as Tripoli was falling," Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW's North Africa director, said in a statement.

Some 18 bullet-riddled bodies, two with their hands bound, were found in a riverbed near Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya complex and witnesses told HRW they had been killed by Gaddafi fighters, the statement said.

A further 29 corpses were found in a makeshift medical clinic near the compound, also showing signs of execution, HRW said. Four were lying dead on cots in the clinic, and at least one had been tied up.

HRW said it interviewed three survivors of alleged executions by pro-Gaddafi forces, including a man who said he had been shot three times as mercenaries fired into a room of 25 prisoners after receiving orders to "just finish them off."

The sounds of advancing rebels had been heard just before the prisoners were shot, the witness told HRW.

"These incidents, which may represent only a fraction of the total, raise grave questions about the conduct of Gaddafi forces in the past few days, and whether it was systematic or planned," said Whitson. "If these incidents are proven to be extra-judicial killings, they are serious war crimes and those responsible should be brought to justice."

Reuters reporters in Tripoli have seen evidence of several mass killings, including several bodies with their hands bound. Amnesty International said last week it had found evidence of Gaddafi's fighters killing prisoners. Amnesty also said it had received reports of rebels abusing their detainees.

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