Human Rights Watch has released a new report, titled “Death of a Dictator”, that looks at the death of former Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi and a number of his supporters.
Perhaps most remarkable is that we still don’t really know exactly how Qaddafi died, and the Libyan government has never publicly investigated it.
What we do know is that Qaddafi had been attempting to flee the city of Sirte with a heavily armed convey when one vehicle was hit by a missile fired by a NATO-drone. The rest of the convey soon came under fire from NATO jets.
Qaddafi and some of his followers attempted to flee through fields on foot, but were quickly found by rebel militia men. Qaddafi was injured from a grenade his own bodyguard had thrown, but he was attacked further:
As soon as the militia fighters had custody of [Qaddafi], they began abusing him. Blood was already gushing from the shrapnel wound in his head. As he was being led onto the main road, a militiaman stabbed him in his anus with what appears to have been a bayonet, causing another rapidly bleeding wound. Misrata militia fighters surrounded [Qaddafi], punching and beating him, and yelling “Allahu Akbar!” and “Misrata!” over and over again.
One militia leader explained to HRW:
“When we captured [Qaddafi], the situation was a mess. There were very many fighters around. He was alive when I saw him, so he must have been shot later, not when we saw him here. But it was a violent scene, he was put on the front of a pickup truck that tried to drive him away, and he fell off. It was very confusing. People were pulling on his hair and hitting him. We understood there needed to be a trial, but we couldn’t control everyone, some acted beyond our control.”
Video footage of Qaddafi taken at the scene of his capture shows Qaddafi being loaded into an ambulance. He is nearly naked and very pale. He was certainly dead when he finally arrived at hospital, two hours later.
The report says that his death remains unexplained:
The exact circumstances of his death remain unclear: some militia fighters from Benghazi claim to have shot Gaddafi dead during a dispute with Misrata fighters about where to take him, but their claims remain unconfirmed.
Libya’s chief forensic pathologist, Dr. Othman al-Zintani, later told the press that Qaddafi had died from a gunshot wound to the head. However, the official autopsy was never concluded and Dr. al-Zintani says he has been threatened for conducting it. Human Rights Watch was allowed to inspect the body, but were not able to turn the body over to inspect the back of the head. They could not see any exit wounds that would indicate he was shot at short range.
Qaddafi is just one of many who appears to have been summarily executed by the rebels. The report says that 150 pro-Qaddafi fighters were captured that day. Up to 66 of these fighters were found dead the next day, with video footage existing that shows them being beaten and berated.
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