United Nations A/hrc/19/68

Killings as areas fell to the opposition

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Killings as areas fell to the opposition

  1. In late February 2011, several cities fell under opposition control. The Commission received credible accounts from eyewitnesses and local residents that, in the immediate aftermath, angry mobs beat to death, shot, or hanged perceived loyalists, Sub-Saharan nationals assumed to be mercenaries and captured Qadhafi soldiers. Lack of post-mortem reports and other official documents, coupled with the reluctance of some eyewitnesses, forensic pathologists and others to provide detailed information on abuses perpetrated by the thuwar has made it difficult to estimate the number.

  2. On 24 February 2011 in Al Zawiyah, seven anti-government protesters were killed by gunfire as Qadhafi troops sought to disperse the anti-government sit-in at the main Square in Al Zawiyah, now known as Martyrs’ Square.318 The remainder of Qadhafi forces were overpowered by protesters and retreated outside the city. Four Qadhafi soldiers were captured. An eyewitness told the Commission that one of the captured soldiers was beaten to death in by an angry mob, while the other was hung from the Bir al-Ghanem bridge, at a distance of about 1.5 kilometres from the Square. It is unclear whether he was killed by hanging, or whether he was killed before being hanged. Two other captured soldiers were given civilian clothes by other anti-government protesters and escaped a similar fate.319

  3. In eastern Libya, similar killings of captured soldiers and alleged African mercenaries took place in late February 2011 as the cities of Al Bayda, Benghazi, and Darnah fell under thuwar control. Eyewitnesses told the Commission of public hangings of men presented as “African mercenaries” in front of Benghazi’s North Court building on 19 February 2011. These were filmed on mobile phones and widely circulated.320

  4. The Commission received reports of over a dozen Qadhafi soldiers shot in the back of the head around 22-23 February 2011 in a village between al-Bayda and Darnah, apparently by thuwar. Two videos seen by the Commission show a group of men, most in military uniform of the type worn by Qadhafi forces, being aggressively interrogated by unidentified men regarding their use of force against anti-Government protesters. The second video shows the same group dead lying face down on the ground, with hands tied behind the back. Many were shot in the head.321

  5. When areas first came under thuwar control, Sub-Saharan African nationals and dark-skinned Libyan nationals were particularly vulnerable to house raids, arbitrary detention and violent attacks including executions on account of their skin colour and the prevailing suspicion that they might be mercenaries employed by the government. In its first report, the Commission found that a number of Chadian nationals had been executed by gunfire or burning in and around Benghazi in late February 2011 by armed men.322

  6. The Commission’s evidence is consistent with information obtained by Libyan and international human rights NGOs, for by Amnesty International that “in the first days of the uprising, groups of protesters killed a number of captured soldiers and suspected mercenaries in al-Bayda, Darnah and Benghazi. Some were beaten to death, at least three were hanged, and others were shot dead after they had been captured or had surrendered”.323

  7. Such killings in eastern Libya in late February 2011 were facilitated by the security vacuum created in the aftermath of the withdrawal of Qadhafi security forces and by the availability of weapons seized in depots and military bases by anti-government protesters and others. Similar killings of individuals perceived to be Qadhafi loyalists or mercenaries continued during Phase II of the conflict after they fell to the thuwar. For instance, the Commission obtained an official report from the al-Jalaa Hospital morgue addressed to the General Prosecution in Benghazi indicating that a body of an unidentified black man found in the Kawarsha outskirts of Benghazi was brought on 7 April 2011 with gunshot wounds to the back of the head. At the time, Benghazi was firmly under the control of the thuwar and there were no armed confrontations in the area. Other reports at the time noted similar instances.324

  8. A further example of an individual killed immediately following taking control of an area by thuwar is the killing of a young man from Bani Walid – a loyalist area and one of the last Qadhafi strongholds – by Al-Zawiyah thuwar, who participated in the attack on the city with other NTC forces. On 17 October 2011 (the final stage of armed confrontations in Bani Walid), thuwar from Al-Zawiyah arrested the young man in front of his relatives, with assurances that he would be released shortly after questioning. He was driven way in the back of a pick-up truck whilst handcuffed. Shortly after, the family heard gunshots nearby. After several days of searching for his whereabouts, his relatives discovered that he was in a hospital, some 50 kilometres away from Bani Walid, receiving treatment from gunshot-wounds to the abdomen. He succumbed to his wounds nine days later. 325

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