Human Rights Watch have called for an investigation into the circumstances of the death of Muammar Gaddafi and his son, Muatassim, following the release of videos which show both alive and walking after capture. If the Libyan leader and his son were killed whilst in custody of rebel forces, and before a trial, the act may constitute a war crime.
Human Rights Watch cited a number of photographs, videos and an in-person verification as evidence that the former leader and his son may have been killed after they were taken into custody. The bodies of both men have been on display in Misrata where they were killed in a final showdown on the morning of 20th October 2011. Varying accounts give cross fire and a NATO air strike as the cause of Colonel Gaddafi’s death. “Targeted killings” by airstrike and drone are also the subject of debate over extra-judicial killing.
NATO said in a statement:
“At the time of the strike, NATO did not know that Qadhafi was in the convoy. NATO’s intervention was conducted solely to reduce the threat towards the civilian population, as required to do under our UN mandate. As a matter of policy, NATO does not target individuals.
“We later learned from open sources and Allied intelligence that Qadhafi was in the convoy and that the strike likely contributed to his capture.”
A failure to provide safe custody or medical care for former government forces would not only violate international law, but may also protract the violence in the North African nation, as former combatants would be unwilling to surrender. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch said:
“Finding out how they died matters. It will set the tone for whether the new Libya will be ruled by law or by summary violence.”
Leaders around the world called for the Transitional National Council and Libyans in general to refrain from acts of revenge following the news that the Muammar Gaddafi had passed away.