Human Rights Council
Agenda item 4
Human rights situation that require the Council’s attention
Mandate and methods of work of the international commission of inquiry
Pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-15/1 of 25 February 2011, entitled “Situation of human rights in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya”, the President of the Human Rights Council established the international commission of inquiry, and appointed M. Cherif Bassiouni as the Chairperson of the commission, and Asma Khader and Philippe Kirsch as the two other members.
In paragraph 11 of resolution S-15/1, the Human Rights Council requested the commission to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and, where possible, to identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular, on accountability measures, all with a view to ensuring that those individuals responsible are held accountable.
The commission decided to consider actions by all parties that might have constituted human rights violations throughout the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. It also considered violations committed before, during and after the demonstrations witnessed in a number of cities in the country in February 2011. In the light of the armed conflict that developed in late February 2011 in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and continued during the commission’s operations, the commission looked into both violations of international human rights law and relevant provisions of international humanitarian law, the lex specialis that applies during armed conflict.1 Furthermore, following the referral of the events in the Libyan Arab Jamahirya by the Security Council to the International Criminal Court, the commission also considered events in the light of international criminal law.
The commission established direct contact with the Government of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and the National Transitional Council, as well as with representatives of civil society and individuals throughout the country. It met with over 350 people during its field missions, including meetings with 113 people (doctors and other medical staff, patients and members of their families) in 10 hospitals, meeting with 30 people detained in two locations in the country (Tripoli and Benghazi) and meetings with 148 people3 displaced either within the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya or in transit points or refugee camps outside it.
The commission reviewed all allegations raised in connection with issues arising under its mandate. It studied a large number of reports, submissions and other documentation either researched of its own initiative or provided by others, amounting to more than 5,000 pages of documents, more than 580 videos and over 2,200 photographs.
The quality of the evidence and the information obtained by the commission varied in its accuracy and reliability. The commission opted for a cautious approach in the present report by consistently referring to the information obtained as being distinguishable from evidence that could be used in criminal proceedings, whether national or international. It was also careful to make a distinction between information and reports received and testimony it heard first-hand, as well as facts that it observed first-hand. This cautionary approach should not, however, be read as an indication that the allegations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law violations contained in the report are not credible or sufficient in quality and quantity to warrant the concern of the international community.
It should be noted that the reports received by non-governmental organizations were useful and, apparently, reliable. The reports received from Government sources and those of the National Transitional Council did not, however, reflect the same evidentiary qualitative standard. Government reports contained mainly either general denials or specific allegations not supported by evidence. Both sides supplied the commission with broad statements based on unconfirmed reports, allegations or public rumours. The commission informed all sides of its evidentiary standards and met with officials and non-governmental organizations on both sides, informing them on these standards and advising them on reporting requirements. Nevertheless, all such information, notwithstanding their qualitative differences, were taken into account.
Since the beginning of the situation in February 2011, the media, including the international media, have been active in providing reports on events, including videotaped materials. Similarly, a large number of videos and still pictures were given to the commission by individuals, non-governmental organizations, the Government and the National Transitional Council. While the commission took these visual documentary sources into account, their authenticity will have to be ascertained once the sources, such as the details with respect to time and place, can be obtained. In time and with resources, one could reconstitute a visual/photographic record of certain events by establishing a database project linking the visual imagery with written reports. Nevertheless, the large number of videos and pictures, as well as of similar pictures obtained from different sources, tends to give credibility to the accuracy and genuine nature of these images, which in many cases amount to clear indications of violation of international human rights law, humanitarian law and criminal law.