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For Immediate Release

Following Death of Qaddafi, PHR Calls for Justice and Accountability for All

NTC must preserve evidence of mass atrocities and other possible war crimes, including the death of Qaddafi

Cambridge, Mass. - 10/21/2011

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today renewed its calls for justice and accountability in Libya in the wake of questions surrounding the circumstances of Muammar Qaddafi’s death.

“Whether they are investigating the death of one person or the victims buried in mass graves, we believe the National Transitional Council (NTC) has a critical opportunity to make a clear break with the past by adhering to international standards and conducting a thorough and transparent investigation into all potential war crimes and other human rights violations,” said Stefan Schmitt, Director of PHR’s International Forensics Program. In September, Schmitt was a part of a team of experts who travelled to Libya to examine a massacre site and advise the NTC on human identification, and evidence documentation and collection for trials.

“While the death of Qaddafi is undoubtedly a political milestone for Libya, it also precludes any later trial that might have provided accountability and truth for victims, their families, and all Libyans,” said Schmitt.

PHR believes that there are numerous perpetrators yet to be tried, and that providing true justice and accountability will require credible evidence that will stand up in a court of law and to international scrutiny.  A strong central authority is also necessary to conduct an independent, transparent, and credible investigation, which is an important part of a strong justice system.

“To the extent that Libya does not yet have these capabilities, the international community must be willing to assist them in any way it can,” said Schmitt. “For example, a pathologist conducting an autopsy on Qadaffi would understandably be under tremendous pressure and might greatly benefit from the presence of an independent international observer.” 

PHR stands ready to provide independent expertise and guidance to the NTC on best practices regarding the gathering of evidence of human rights violations. PHR’s International Forensic Program has documented and collected evidence of human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law for more than 20 years for the International Criminal Tribunals of the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, as well as in Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, Afghanistan and Honduras.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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