Summary In emergency session, the Human Rights Council on 25 February 2011 established the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya and gave it the mandate “to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya, 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 conducted its investigations applying the international legal regimes dictated by the situation. It concluded that international crimes, specifically crimes against humanity and war crimes, were committed by Qadhafi forces in Libya. Acts of murder, enforced disappearance, and torture were perpetrated within the context of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population. The Commission found additional violations including unlawful killing, individual acts of torture and ill-treatment, attacks on civilians, and rape.
The Commission further concluded that the thuwar (anti-Qadhafi forces) committed serious violations, including war crimes and breaches of international human rights law, the latter continuing at the time of the present report. The Commission found these violations to include unlawful killing, arbitrary arrest, torture, enforced disappearance, indiscriminate attacks, and pillage. It found in particular that the thuwar are targeting the Tawergha and other communities.
The Commission concluded that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) conducted a highly precise campaign with a demonstrable determination to avoid civilian casualties. On limited occasions, the Commission confirmed civilian casualties and found targets that showed no evidence of military utility. The Commission was unable to draw conclusions in such instances on the basis of the information provided by NATO and recommends further investigations.
The interim Government faces many challenges in overcoming a legacy of more than 40 years of serious human rights violations and deterioration of the legislative framework, judicial and national institutions. It has nevertheless expressed a commitment to human rights and has taken positive steps to establish mechanisms for accountability.
The government is gradually restoring the judiciary by reopening courts and recalling judges, and there has been some progress in the transfer of detainees to central government control.
The Commission is nevertheless concerned by the failure to hold accountable thuwar committing serious violations. Libyan authorities can break with the Qadhafi legacy by enforcing the law equally, investigating all abuses - irrespective of the perpetrator - and ensuring that amnesty processes comport with Libya’s obligations under international law.
To give effect to its commitment to improve the human rights situation in Libya, the interim Government will need considerable support from the United Nations and the international community.