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For Immediate Release

New Report on War Crimes in Libya Details Use of Civilians as Human Shields and Other Violations

Policy recommendations provide “next steps” for Libya’s political future

Cambridge, Mass - 08/30/2011

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today released a report on war crimes in Libya. The report, Witness to War Crimes, sheds light on Qaddafi’s brutal two-month siege of Misrata, whose residents reportedly suffered some of the most egregious abuses of the civil war. Witness to War Crimes includes reports of civilians being used as human shields to guard military munitions from NATO attacks and documentary evidence of torture and the disappearances of elderly civilians.

“This report provides a snapshot of what life was like in this city under siege, and it is a horrifying picture,” said Richard Sollom, PHR’s Deputy Director and author of the report. “The evidence of war crimes that we documented is not only for the historical record, but it is essential for securing justice and accountability for all Libyans. For its future government to succeed, Libya must confront the legacy of severe human rights violations committed by Qaddafi’s tyrannical regime and the reports of human rights violations committed by rebel forces and NATO.”

The report documents accounts of rapes by Qaddafi forces, honor killings that occurred in response to rapes, forced disappearances and attacks on medical facilities. It also provides evidence that Qaddafi ordered his troops to starve civilians in Misrata.

“One of the questions that plagues countries after a conflict is, ‘How can we move on and yet still address the crimes of the past?’” said Sollom. “At PHR, we have a long history of helping countries address past human rights violations as part of the post conflict healing process. Our understanding of this importance guided our policy recommendations, which call for the United States to cooperate with the International Criminal Court and the Transitional National Council to arrest Muammar Qaddafi and other perpetrators.”

Other policy recommendations include:

  • The US must cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court by offering intelligence and other relevant information to the Court.
  • The US must support legislative efforts in the U.S. Congress, including the Medical Neutrality Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 2643), introduced by Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Walter Jones (R-NC), so that the U.S. may more effectively respond to violations of medical neutrality.
  • Libyan opposition officials must abide by all norms of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and investigate any and all alleged attacks on civilians by rebel forces. They must hold perpetrators of any abuse accountable.
  • The TNC must cooperate with the International Criminal Court regarding arrests of Muammar Qaddafi, Saif Al Islam Qaddafi, Abdullah Al Sanousi, pursuant to the Court’s warrants and strengthen Libyan legal institutions so that they can fairly implement accountability measures for perpetrators of human rights violations.
  • The TNC must ensure that perpetrators of human rights violations will be held accountable for their crimes and will not play leading roles in the upcoming political transition.
  • The TNC must enforce the rule of law and strongly oppose acts of vigilante justice.
  • The TNC must allow international observers to monitor a transition of power.
  • Loyalists must immediately cease all attacks on civilians, including extrajudicial killings, rape, torture, forced disappearance, and attacks on medical facilities, professionals, transport, supplies, and patients.
  • NATO must launch impartial and independent investigations into any credible allegation of crimes committed by NATO forces, including alleged attacks on civilians.

Download Witness to War Crimes at this PHR web page.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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