LONDON - Forces on both sides of the Libyan war have committed war crimes and the country risks descending into a bloody cycle of attacks and reprisals unless order can be established, human rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

Muammar Gaddafi's attacks on civilian protesters were a crime against humanity, while arbitrary detentions, torture of prisoners and widespread abductions were war crimes, the London-based charity said in a report.

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Amnesty also criticized Libya's opposition forces and said Gaddafi's fall from power after 42 years had left a "security and institutional vacuum" that they exploited to carry out revenge killings and torture.

It urged Libya's interim rulers, the National Transitional Council (NTC), to investigate abuses on both sides and to put human rights at the top of their agenda.

The 112-page report was compiled by an Amnesty team after visits to Libya between February and late July.

Amnesty collected evidence of indiscriminate attacks on civilians by pro-Gaddafi forces using rockets, mortars, artillery and tanks.

The report also accused pro-Gaddafi fighters of hiding tanks in civilian areas to protect them from air strikes, a practice that Amnesty said breaches international humanitarian law and constitutes a war crime. It also criticised their indiscriminate use of anti-personnel mines.

Amnesty officials saw the bodies of opposition fighters who had been shot in the back of the head with their hands tied behind their backs with metal wire, the report said.

Amnesty said anti-Gaddafi soldiers were also guilty of human rights abuses, although on a smaller scale.

They have abducted, arbitrarily detained, tortured and killed Gaddafi loyalists and foreign nationals wrongly suspected of being mercenaries, the report said.


A spate of lynching and murder in the first days of the uprising had given way to organized attacks by vigilante groups who act with impunity, the report said. Detainees said they had been tortured, threatened with rape and given electric shocks.

The NTC has been struggling to impose its authority on Libya, a sprawling desert state of 6 million people, since rebel fighters entered the capital Tripoli on Aug. 21.

Once the fighting is over, Amnesty said Libya would need new human rights laws after decades of abuses.

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