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UN Panel: Qaddafi Committed War Crimes

UN panel finds that Libyan leader Qaddafi has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity - and that rebels, too, committed some war crimes.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 6/2/2011, 4:38 AM / Last Update: 6/2/2011, 10:12 AM

A United Nations panel has found that Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s forces have committed crimes against humanity as well as war crimes during the conflict in the country.

The UN investigators have also found evidence that the rebels against Qaddafi also committed “some acts which would constitute war crimes,” AP quoted the panel as having said.

The report notes, however, that “the commission is not of the view that the violations committed by the opposition armed forces were part of any ‘widespread or systematic attack’ against a civilian population such as to amount to crimes against humanity.”

The three-member panel estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people have been killed in the Libyan conflict.

The panel based its findings on interviews with 350 people in government- and rebel-held parts of Libya, as well as in refugee camps in neighboring countries.

Their report adds to the evidence recently collected by prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, who are seeking arrest warrants for Qaddafi and two other senior officials for alleged crimes against humanity.

The UN panel said government forces committed murder, torture and sexual abuses “as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population” before and during the conflict, adding that “such acts fall within the meaning of ‘crimes against humanity.’”

AP also noted that the panel found “many serious violations of international humanitarian law committed by government forces amounting to ‘war crimes,’” and specifically names Qaddafi and members of his inner circle for making policy decisions that led to these crimes.

Rebel Forces, Too
Qaddafi is not the only one guilty, however. The panel’s report also found that the rebel forces committed “some acts which would constitute war crimes.”

The panel also investigated allegations that NATO airstrikes in Libya have caused large numbers of civilian casualties, but was unable to confirm Libyan government claims that 500 civilians have died in the airstrikes.

“The commission has not seen evidence to suggest that civilian areas have been intentionally targeted by NATO forces, nor that it has engaged in indiscriminate attacks on civilians,” the panel said.

South African President Jacob Zuma was in Libya earlier this week and held talks with Qaddafi, in an attempt to broker a deal that would end the conflict.

Zuma later said that Qaddafi had “confirmed that he’s ready to implement the decision of the African Union. There must be a cease-fire, which is unconditional. That includes bombing by NATO coming to an end. A cease-fire must include everyone.”

Meanwhile, eight high-ranking Libyan army officers appeared in Rome earlier in the week, saying they were part of a group of as many as 120 military officials and soldiers who had defected from leader Muammar Qaddafi’s side. One of the officers claimed Qaddafi’s army was weakening daily and that the force had been reduced to 20 percent of its original capacity. He was quoted as saying that “Qaddafi’s days are numbered.”