24/10/2011 12:36 BST | Updated 24/12/2011 05:12 GMT

Libya Executions: Human Rights Activists Demand Answers After 53 Pro-Gaddafi Supporters 'Executed'

Human rights activists are calling for an immediate investigation after 53 pro-Gaddafi fighters were apparently executed in a hotel in Sirte.

The bodies were discovered clustered together in the sea-view garden of the Hotel Mahari, located in District 2 of Sirte, on 23 October. The area was under the control of anti-Gaddafi fighters when the killings took place, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Calling for an investigation by the National Transitional Council (NTC), the group said in a statement that bullet holes had been discovered in the ground nearby, and added the bodies were surrounded by spent AK-47 cartridges and bloodstains.

The evidence suggests the people were shot and killed together and in the same location.

"We found 53 decomposing bodies, apparently Gaddafi supporters, at an abandoned hotel in Sirte, and some had their hands bound behind their backs when they were shot," said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at the New York based HRW.

Some of the bodies had bandages over serious wounds, the group added, which suggests they were being treated for other injuries before they were killed.

"About 20 Sirte residents were putting the bodies in body bags and preparing them for burial when Human Rights Watch arrived at the hotel," the group said.

"They said they had discovered the bodies on October 21, after the fighting in Sirte had stopped and they returned to their neighbourhood."

HRW has now called on Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) to conduct "an immediate and transparent investigation" into the killings, and has demanded that those responsible are brought to justice.

"The evidence suggests that some of the victims were shot while being held as prisoners, when that part of Sirte was controlled by anti-Gaddafi brigades who appear to act outside the control of the NTC," Bouckaert said. "If the NTC fails to investigate this crime it will signal that those who fought against Gaddafi can do anything without fear of prosecution."

A further 10 bodies, discovered at a separate site in the city, also appear to be the victims of executions, HRW said. The bodies were found in a water reservoir.

(Above, the hotel where the bodies of 53 apparently executed pro-Gaddafi fighters were found.)

Four of the dead were identified as residents of Sirte. They are Ezzidin al-Hinsheri, who was allegedly a former Gaddafi government official, Muftah Dabroun, a military officer, and two other residents of the city, Amar Mahmoud Saleh and Muftah al-Deley.

On the walls of the hotel HRW found the names of five Misrata-based fighting groups who were apparently based at the hotel, but there is no direct evidence that they were involved in the killings.

The apparent executions were found days after the death of former dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, some elements of which are yet to be explained by the NTC.

Even as the NTC bowed to international calls for an investigation into Gaddafi's death, the group pointed to the remains of 95 people who were killed alongside him, some of whom by apparent 'execution-style gunshots', which have not yet been explained.

They also reiterated calls for an investigation to the killing of the former rebel military General Abdel Fattah Younes, who had defected to the anti-Gaddafi forces but who was shot by his aides on 28 July after NTC officials issued a warrant for his arrest.

"This latest massacre seems part of a trend of killings, looting, and other abuses committed by armed anti-Gaddafi fighters who consider themselves above the law," Bouckaert said. "It is imperative that the transitional authorities take action to rein in these groups."