Libya urged to investigate Gaddafi supporters’ “execution”

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A human rights group called for an investigation into a suspected mass execution of 53 Gaddafi supporters and urged Libyan authorities to crack down on violence or other crimes by fighters who helped oust the former Libyan leader.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said 53 bodies were found last week, clustered together and surrounded by spent rifle cartridges, on a grass area of an abandoned hotel in a part of Sirte that was controlled by anti-Gaddafi fighters.

Officials from the human rights watchdog, who saw the bodies on Sunday, said some of the victims had their hands tied behind their backs when they were shot and were identified by local residents as Gaddafi loyalists, Reuters reports.

Human Rights Watch called on the National Transitional Council (NTC), Libya’s new leadership, to conduct an “immediate and transparent” investigation into the deaths in Sirte, the hometown of fallen Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
“This requires the immediate attention of the Libyan authorities to investigate what happened and hold accountable those responsible,” Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

The NTC was not immediately available for comment.

Human Rights Watch said the condition of the bodies suggested the victims had been killed on location at Hotel Mahari between October 14 and 19.

Local residents told the group they found the bodies when they returned home on October 21, the day after Gaddafi was captured and killed, ending fighting in Sirte after a two-month siege.

The local residents identified some of the deceased as Sirte residents and Gaddafi supporters.

Bouckaert said Human Rights Watch saw the bodies at the hotel on Sunday as well as the names of several anti-Gaddafi brigades from Misrata written on the walls of the building.

Bouckaert said there was no direct evidence that these groups were involved in the deaths but he said violence of any kind inflicted during an armed conflict on fighters who had laid down their arms or were in detention was a war crime.
“This latest massacre seems part of a trend of killings, looting, and other abuses committed by armed anti-Gaddafi fighters who consider themselves above the law,” he said.
“It is imperative that the transitional authorities take action to rein in these groups.”

Human Rights Watch said it had found the remains of at least 95 people at the site where Gaddafi was captured. It said most of these had been killed in fighting and NATO strikes but between six and 10 appeared to have been executed at the site.

The group said it had also seen the badly decomposed bodies of 10 people at a separate site in Sirte but added that it was not possible to identify the victims or establish if Gaddafi forces or anti-Gaddafi fighters were responsible.

In addition, Human Rights Watch said it was told by medical officials in Sirte that their teams and anti-Gaddafi fighters had found 23 bodies, their hands bound, between October 15 and 20.