A new report into the final hours leading to Muammar Gaddafi's death nearly one year ago has claimed that the Libyan dictator was killed in captivity by rebels, rather than in crossfire as Libyan authorities claimed.
A study by Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims that Gaddafi was severely injured by a grenade attack before being stabbed with a bayonet and eventually dying after his capture in Sirte last year.
Previously, Libya's National Transitional Council had said Gaddafi was shot in the head during combat. The NTC's acting Prime Minister, Mahmoud Jibril, even claimed a "forensic report" showed Gaddafi was killed by a bullet to the head.
However, the 58-page report, released on Wednesday, disputes the Libyan account of Gaddafi's death and, damningly, claims at least 66 members of Gaddafi's convoy, including his son Mutassim, were summarily executed in the town of Sirte, also after being captured.
The report directly contradicts the Libyan NTC's account of his death
The report claims that video evidence shows the former dictator was captured alive after being wounded by a grenade, which also killed his defence minister Abu Bakr Younis, before being savagely beaten and stabbed in the buttocks with a bayonet. By the time he is later loaded into an ambulance, he appeared half-naked and "lifeless".
HRW researched the men shown in a video (below) filmed by rebel militia in Sirte's Mahari Hotel at the time and matched 17 of them to more than 50 bodies found in the town, with their arms still bound before their backs.
"Under the laws of war, the killing of captured combatants is a war crime, and Libyan civilian and military authorities have an obligation to investigate war crimes and other violations of international humanitarian law," Human Rights Watch claims.
The group also claim: "These killings constitute the largest documented execution of detainees by anti-Gaddafi forces during the eight-month conflict in Libya."
The video shows a number of men captured by rebel forces in Misrata
Of Mutassin Gaddafi's fate, HRW claims he was captured wounded in Misrata, filmed arguing with captors, before being found dead with a throat wound not seen in the earlier video.
The group strongly criticise the Libyan government for not launching an inquiry into the deaths of Gaddafi and his son, as well as the dozens apparently killed in custody.
In the report, HRW list a page of recommendations to the Libyan authorities, urging prosecution on those responsible for the killings of the Gaddafis and the other loyalists captured.
Human Rights Watch's emergencies director Peter Bouckaert has urged the Libyan government to address the behaviour of its forces.
“One of Libya’s greatest challenges is to bring its well-armed militias under control and end their abuses,” Bouckaert said. “A good first step would be to investigate the mass executions of 20 October, 2011, the most serious abuse by opposition forces documented so far.”
You can read the Human Rights Watch report in full on the group's website.
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