U.N. Human Rights agency calls for investigation into Qaddafi’s death

The U.N.’s chief human rights agency today said there is a need for an investigation into the death of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, citing the broadcast of “disturbing” video of the bloodied late Libyan leader alive during what appears to be his final hours of life. The videos, which were reportedly captured on cell phones from ...

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CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images
CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images
CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

The U.N.'s chief human rights agency today said there is a need for an investigation into the death of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, citing the broadcast of "disturbing" video of the bloodied late Libyan leader alive during what appears to be his final hours of life.

The videos, which were reportedly captured on cell phones from anti-Qaddafi forces, challenges the official claim by the National Transitional Council (NTC) that Qaddafi was killed in crossfire. They show the former Libyan leader, drenched in blood but clearly alive, being abused by armed men.

The U.N.’s chief human rights agency today said there is a need for an investigation into the death of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi, citing the broadcast of “disturbing” video of the bloodied late Libyan leader alive during what appears to be his final hours of life.

The videos, which were reportedly captured on cell phones from anti-Qaddafi forces, challenges the official claim by the National Transitional Council (NTC) that Qaddafi was killed in crossfire. They show the former Libyan leader, drenched in blood but clearly alive, being abused by armed men.

“On the issue of Qaddafi’s death yesterday, the circumstances are unclear — there seem to be four or five different versions of how he died,” Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights, told reporters in Geneva today. “As you are aware, there are at least two cell-phone videos, one showing him alive and one showing him dead. Taken together, these videos are very disturbing. We believe there is a need for an investigation and more details are needed to ascertain whether he was killed in the fighting or after his capture.”

Colville said that an existing independent commission of inquiry for Libya, established earlier this year by the U.N. Human Rights Council, “is very likely to look into this. Other forms of investigation might also be considered.”

“A key aspect enabling closure on the legacy of Qaddafi’s 42-year despotic rule, and on the bloody conflict this year, will be to ensure that justice is done,” Colville said. “The thousands of victims who suffered loss of life, disappearance, torture, and other serious human rights violations since the conflict broke out in February 2011, as well as those who suffered human rights violations throughout Qaddafi’s long rule, have the right to know the truth, to see the culture of impunity brought to an end, and to receive reparations.”

“In order to turn the page on the legacy of decades of systematic violations of human rights, it will be essential for alleged perpetrators to be brought before trials, which adhere to international standards for fair trial, and for victims to see that accountability has been achieved,” he added.

The announcement came one day after the U.N.’s special representative for Libya, Ian Martin, told reporters in a tele-press conference from Tripoli that the U.N. mission in Libya would not look into the case. Martin said that his mission will concentrate its efforts on helping to manage the country’s delicate political transition, and that and “investigative responsibilities” for serious crimes would rest with the International Criminal Court (ICC) or the Human Rights Council commission of inquiry. There are “not issues for my mission,” he said.

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Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch

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