Libya's new leaders under fire over claims of rights abuses
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Libya's transitional government is facing pressure to provide answers about the circumstances of Muammar Gaddafi's death and assurances that human rights will be respected in the newly liberated country.
A nagging controversy over the manner of Muammar Gaddafi's death, and new reports of alleged executions of Gaddafi loyalists, have cast a disquieting image of the newly “liberated” Libya.
International rights groups, including Human Right Watch and Amnesty International, have asked for a full investigation into Gaddafi’s final hours after videos posted on the Internet showed that the former strongman was still alive at the time of his capture near Sirte on Thursday.
Senior members of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC), including outgoing prime minister Mahmoud Jibril, have insisted that Gaddafi was shot in the head during “crossfire” between his supporters and opposing fighters, shortly after his capture.
But international observers have said they are sceptical of the NTC’s version of events. “That simply does not stand up to the information we have been able to collect,” said Peter Bourchaert, Emergencies Director for Human Rights Watch in Libya. “It’s a dark stain on Libya’s future,” Bourchaert added in a video posted on YouTube on Saturday.
On Monday, Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil told reporters that the NTC had "started to put in place a commission tasked with investigating the circumstances of Muammar Gaddafi’s death".
Meanwhile, as wrangling continues over what to do with Gaddafi's remains, thousands of onlookers, including children, have been ushered into a chill room in the coastal city of Misrata where his body lay on the floor, alongside those of his son Mutassim and his former army chief.
Gaddafi requested to be buried in his hometown of Sirte in his will, and his tribesmen have asked for the body. But the country's new leaders are said to be mulling a secret burial so that the grave does not become a shrine.
France remains ‘vigilant’
The possible lynching of Libya's former long-time leader has joined a long list of allegations of atrocities committed by both sides during the fighting that followed the popular uprising in February.
The country’s new leadership has repeatedly pledged to respect international rules on human rights and provide transparency during the transition period.
But concerns over lawlessness and extra-judicial killings intensified on Monday as Human Rights Watch reported it had documented what appeared to be the execution of 53 Gaddafi supporters at an abandoned hotel in Sirte last week. The group said it found the decomposing bodies on Sunday, some with their hands tied behind their backs.
“The main problem is how to make the distinction between those who died during the very violent fighting over the last few weeks, that included street fighting and bombings, and those who have been executed either by lawless fighters or NTC forces,” said FRANCE 24’s Marine Olives reporting from the capital, Tripoli.
France on Monday said that it trusted the NTC to build a new government based on the rule of law, but that it would remain vigilant regarding the protection of human rights and democratic principles.
A spokesman for France’s foreign ministry said the country would keep a close watch on the recently liberated Libya, “especially regarding cultural and religious diversity, and the equality between men and women, which France is indissolubly attached to.”
France, along with Britain, led the international effort to provide NATO military cover to the rebel forces who fought Gaddafi’s regime.