Mahari hotel killings While many of the killings reported to the Commission were individual ones, at least two group executions did take place. The Commission was able to establish that tens of Qadhafi soldiers and alleged loyalists were executed in October 2011 at the Mahari Hotel in Sirte, Qadhafi’s hometown and last stronghold. Local residents told the Commission that a large number of bodies (estimates ranging from 65 to 78) were discovered on 21 October 2011 at the Mahari Hotel – the day after the end of hostilities in Sirte and the capture and killing of Muammar Qadhafi.326 Most were discovered in the back garden of the hotel, on the side facing the seafront.327 Other bodies were scattered elsewhere at the hotel’s premises, including the back terrace. At least one victim was hung down by his ankle from the first floor banister into the hotel foyer. The victims were lying in close proximity to each other; some had their hands bound.328 Contemporaneous independent reports noted bullet holes in the back garden where the bodies were discovered, along with spent cartridges of AK-47 and FN rifles, indicating that the victims were killed where they bodies were found.329 At the time of the Commission’s visit to the site in January 2012, renovations were being carried out at the hotel and much of the evidence of the crime was being removed. Nonetheless, in the back garden the location where the bodies were found remained visible, as local residents and hotel staff had burned the grass to remove blood and other human remains. There were also still a large number of spent rifle cartridges on the ground and bullet holes in the back garden.
In the last weeks of fighting in Sirte, the Mahari Hotel and the surrounding area were under control of thuwar from Misrata, who used it as a base. During Commission’s visit in January 2012, names of some of the Misrata-based brigades were still visible on the inside and outside walls of the hotel, suggesting their presence or use of the Hotel during their fighting. They were the Tiger Brigade (Katibat Al-Nimer), the Support Brigade (Katibat Al-Isnad), the Jaguar Brigade (Katibat Al-Fahad), the Lion Brigade (Katibat Al-Asad), and the Citadel Brigade (Al-Qasba).330
According to eyewitnesses and individuals involved in the removal and identification of victims, some of those killed were residents of Sirte, particularly of Area 2, where Muammar Qadhafi and his remaining troops were based during the final days of the confrontations. A Sirte resident told the Commission that 58 victims have been identified by their families. Some were fighters while others are believed to have been civilians. He said that his cousin, who had been detained at the hotel by the Tiger Brigade, but released before the killings took place, told him that the victims included those arrested at checkpoints established by the thuwar or those captured in Area 2 including those previously receiving treatment at the Ibn Sina Hospital.331 Human Rights Watch’s findings that some of the bodies had visible bandages corroborate reports that some of those executed had received medical treatment shortly before their deaths.332 The Commission’s investigators were also shown video footage of a group of about 29 alleged Qadhafi loyalists, all in civilian dress, sitting outside with their backs to a wall, held in captivity by individuals who identified themselves as Misrata thuwar. On the video, which was reportedly shot on 20 October 2011, the thuwar are heard saying “we, Misrata, captured Qadhafi today.” The captured men were insulted, called “Qadhafi’s dogs”, spat on, threatened with murder, slapped and hit. None of the captives bore any visible signs of injury. The Commission met with family members of two individuals, from the Qadhafi tribe, seen alive in the video. The family of the dead men told the Commission that the men’s bodies were later brought to the Ibn Sina Hospital from the Mahari Hotel with gunshot wounds. The Commission was informed that one of the victims was a civilian who took up arms against the thuwar during the assault on Sirte, and the other was a member of the Qadhafi armed forces.333 The date of the actual killings has not been established as no survivors or other eyewitnesses to the actual killings have been identified. The video date and satellite images suggest that at least some of the killings took place between 20 and 21 October 2011, when the bodies were discovered.