United Nations A/hrc/19/68

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Factual Findings

      1. Deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian objects

  • Qadhafi forces

    1. Attack on Misrata

  • Misrata endured some of the most protracted fighting during the conflict. Following anti-government protests in late February 2011 which culminated with the thuwar taking control of the city, Qadhafi forces launched a military assault in mid-March. The attack put Misrata under a siege accompanied by heavy shelling for more than three months - until Qadhafi forces retreated from the centre of town. Shelling of the city continued sporadically until August 2011 from positions outside the city. Misrata remained surrounded by Qadhafi forces save for the sea, while the city’s port was mined on at least one occasion. At all times when it was under attack, Misrata’s population remained predominantly civilian and suffered heavy civilian casualties.

  • During visits to Misrata in December 2011 and January 2012, the Commission examined the extensive damage in the city including on Tripoli and Benghazi streets, sites of the fiercest fighting. Visible damage to buildings and other structures was also observed in other neighbourhoods in the city including but not limited to Zawiyat al-Mahjoub, the Sahili Road, and Dafniya.

  • The Commission’s military expert noted that the damage to buildings was consistent with the use of small arms (7.62x39mm and other), heavy machine guns (12.7mm and 14.5mm), anti-aircraft canons (23mm), tube and rocket artillery, large calibre weapons (HEAT - “high-explosive anti-tank” tank rounds and HESH - “high explosive squash head” tank rounds), mortars (various from 60-120mm), rockets (122mm Grad entry holes were found with the rear of the rockets still protruding from the ground), rocket propelled grenades (RPG) and recoilless rifles. The Commission saw evidence that weapons considered prohibited by many nations, including landmines and cluster munitions, were used by Qadhafi forces in Misrata (see chap. III, sect. I).808

  • Senior Qadhafi military officers interviewed by the Commission confirmed that there were several attempts, some of them successful, to mine the Misrata port which was being used to evacuate the war-wounded and to bring humanitarian supplies, as well as weapons. According to one high-ranking member of the Qadhafi armed forces, his troops sailed from Zlitan, Al Khums and Sirte using small inflatable boats to lay mines in the Misrata harbour.809 During the Commission’s visit to Misrata, it found clear evidence of Chinese Type 84 scatterable mines in the port including remnants of parachutes and delivery vehicles. The Commisiosn also found surface damage consistent with use of these mines. Numerous buildings had been struck by Grad rockets used to carry the mines and there were signs of mine explosions around the port. Grad rocket tails also extended from impact craters and had clearly buried themselves in cement. Anti-personnel mines were also used in Misrata by the Qadhafi forces but had been removed by deminers by the time the Commission arrived.810

  • According to witnesses, 11 Qadhafi brigades took part in the attack on Misrata including the 32nd (Khamis) Brigade. Regular army units also participated in the fighting.811 On 16 March 2011, Qadhafi forces entered the centre of the city together with a large number of tanks.812 Qadhafi forces also positioned themselves in neighbourhoods on the edges of Misrata.813 From these bases, as well as from cities surrounding Misrata, Qadhafi forces carried out attacks against the opposition-held city. Detained Qadhafi soldiers and senior officers interviewed by the Commission confirmed these accounts.814

  • UNOSAT conducted an analysis of satellite imagery for Misrata to determine levels of damage, visible signs of combat and military activity, and road blocks and other barriers to transit. The Commission reviewed imagery from 10 April 2011 and 18 November 2010 for this analysis. The results indicated 152 debris areas, 60 areas of visible scorching, 31 buildings destroyed or severely damaged, five visible impact craters, 990 roadblocks, barriers and security checkpoints,815 five military vehicles, and 36 concentrations of light trucks.

  • The Commission’s senior military adviser conducted a site survey of damage to the city on 10 December 2011. He observed extensive weapons damage to all buildings along Tripoli Street, the main axis of fighting. The most common damage and weapon debris observed was consistent with tank rounds, 106mm recoilless rifles and 107mm rocket artillery using both HEAT and HESH rounds. Damage from heavy machine-gun fire of various calibre was clear on nearly every building on Tripoli Street. There were also clear signs of cluster munition use including debris and strike patterns from submunitions. Some of these attacks appear to have been aimed at thuwar positions in civilian buildings. For example, some attacks were aimed at thuwar fighters firing from civilian buildings down into the streets. Some of these munitions caused effects beyond their intended targets, with tank shells, for example, penetrating a building and travelling through into neighbouring areas before exploding. Grad rockets, which are only capable of being aimed in a general direction,816 were also used in attacks. Strikes from RPGs were also evident. Fire damage was not extensive. Damage throughout the rest of the city was spotty and less extensive with some areas exhibiting no damage.

  • There was also damage to buildings along the axis of attack outside the city, though not as extensive as found along Tripoli Street. The Commission found one mosque struck by a Grad rocket.

  • Unlike the civilian populations in other areas of Libya affected by the fighting, for instance the Nafusa Mountains and Ajdabiya, civilians were trapped inside Misrata as Qadhafi forces laid siege, preventing basic necessities from reaching the city.817 The population survived by relying on existing stocks as well as humanitarian aid reaching it by sea from Malta and Benghazi. The electricity, water supply and communications were repeatedly disrupted throughout the conflict. Only a few places, such as public hospitals, had essential supplies using generators.

  • During the attacks, Misrata’s migrant population also suffered. A migrant worker from Sudan told the Commission that he was trapped inside his house for 30 days due to heavy fighting.818 He eventually escaped to Tunisia, but human rights organizations have reported that migrant workers were killed and injured during rocket attacks on the port while awaiting evacuation at the Misrata harbour.819

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