ResourcesPress Release

New Report on War Crimes in Libya Details Use of Civilians as Human Shields and Other Violations

Policy recommendations provide “next steps” for Libya’s political future

For Immediate Release

Physiciansfor Human Rights (PHR) today released a report on war crimes in Libya. Thereport, Witness to War Crimes, sheds light on Qaddafi’s brutal two-monthsiege of Misrata, whose residents reportedly suffered some of the mostegregious abuses of the civil war. Witnessto War Crimes includes reports of civilians being used as human shields toguard military munitions from NATO attacks and documentary evidence of tortureand the disappearances of elderly civilians.

“Thisreport provides a snapshot of what life was like in this city under siege, andit is a horrifying picture,” said Richard Sollom, PHR’s Deputy Director andauthor of the report. “The evidence of war crimes that we documented is not onlyfor the historical record, but it is essential for securing justice andaccountability for all Libyans. For its future government to succeed, Libyamust confront the legacy of severe human rights violations committed byQaddafi’s tyrannical regime and the reports of human rights violationscommitted by rebel forces and NATO.”

Thereport documents accounts of rapes by Qaddafi forces, honor killings thatoccurred in response to rapes, forced disappearances and attacks on medicalfacilities. It also provides evidence that Qaddafi ordered his troops to starvecivilians in Misrata.

“One of the questions that plaguescountries after a conflict is, ‘How can we move on and yet still address thecrimes of the past?’” said Sollom. “At PHR, we have a long history of helpingcountries address past human rights violations as part of the post conflicthealing process. Our understanding of this importance guided our policyrecommendations, which call for the United States to cooperate with theInternational Criminal Court and the Transitional National Council to arrestMuammar Qaddafi and other perpetrators.”

Otherpolicy recommendations include:

  • The USmust cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International CriminalCourt by offering intelligence and other relevant information to the Court.
  • The USmust support legislative efforts in the U.S. Congress, including the MedicalNeutrality Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 2643), introduced by RepresentativesJim McDermott (D-WA) and Walter Jones (R-NC), so that the U.S. may moreeffectively respond to violations of medical neutrality.
  • Libyanopposition officials must abide by all norms of international human rightslaw and international humanitarian law and investigate any and all allegedattacks on civilians by rebel forces. They must hold perpetrators of any abuseaccountable.
  • The TNCmust cooperate with the International Criminal Court regarding arrests ofMuammar Qaddafi, Saif Al Islam Qaddafi, Abdullah Al Sanousi, pursuant to theCourt’s warrants and strengthen Libyan legal institutions so that they can fairlyimplement accountability measures for perpetrators of human rights violations.
  • The TNCmust ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations will be heldaccountable for their crimes and will not play leading roles in the upcomingpolitical transition.
  • The TNCmust enforce the rule of law and strongly oppose acts of vigilante justice.
  • The TNCmust allow international observers to monitor a transition of power.
  • Loyalistsmust immediately cease all attacks on civilians, including extrajudicialkillings, rape, torture, forced disappearance, and attacks on medicalfacilities, professionals, transport, supplies, and patients.
  • NATO mustlaunch impartial and independent investigations into any credible allegation ofcrimes committed by NATO forces, including alleged attacks on civilians.

Download Witness to War Crimes at this PHR web page.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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Kevin Short

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