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Dustbin of history

/ 10:32 PM October 25, 2011

Libya’s interim government has bowed to international pressure to investigate the circumstances of the death of  the ousted dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi after the discovery of 53 decomposing bodies in a hotel in Sirte, hometown of the fallen leader and his last stronghold.

The pressure mounted after the New York-based Human Rights Watch demanded an inquiry following the discovery of the atrocity, warning of a “trend of killings, looting and other abuses” by those who  triumphed over Gadhafi.   “We found the decomposing bodies,  apparently Gadhafi  supporters at an abandoned hotel in Sirte,” said  Peter Bouckaert of HRW, which investigated the killings. “Some were clustered together, apparently hands tied behind their  backs when they were shot.  The bodies were clustered, apparently where they had been killed, on the grass in sea-view garden of the hotel.” HRW’s investigator found the bodies on Sunday at the Hotel Mahari in District 2 of Sirte, an “area of the city that was  under the control of the anti-Gadhafi fighters.”   HRW said the killing likely took place a week before the bodies were discovered. The state of decomposition suggested that the victims died at the same time, between Oct. 14 and 19,  says HRW—a period before the capture of Gadhafi. Fierce fighting between the revolutionary and Gadhafi forces took place in Sirte, Gadhafi’s last stronghold to fall to the rebels.

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“If the NTC (National Transitional Council) fails to investigate this crime it will signal that those who fought against Gadhafi can do anything without fear of prosecution,” said HRW.

With the mounting call for an inquiry into the atrocities surrounding the death of Gadhafi, the interim Libyan leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, announced that a commission on inquiry has been created to investigate Gadhafi’s death. “In response to international calls, we have started to put in place a commission tasked with investigating the circumstances of  Moammar Gadhafi’s death in the clash with his circle he was being captured, ” Jalil said.   All Libyans wanted to try for his crimes: “From executions, imprisonment, to throwing away the Libyan wealth …or using that wealth against the Libyan people.”

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“Some people may have wanted  him tried to extend their feeling of relief at his downfall, he said.

How Gadhafi died  at the hands of revolutionary forces who captured him  in a  drain pipe has remained a highly contentions issue, with the some NTC leaders adamant in insisting he was shot in the head when he was caught “in the crossfire”   between his supporters and the revolutionary forces soon after his capture last week.

In a curious argument, Abdel-Jalil  raised the possibility that Gadhafi could have been killed by his own supporters to  prevent him from implicating them in past misdeeds under his regime.

“Let us question who has the interest in the fact that  will not be tried. Libyans want to try him for  what he did to them, with executions, imprisonment and corruption,” he said …those who wanted him killed were those who were loyal to him or had played  a role under him, his death was in their benefit.” The US, Britain and Nato members who joined in the military strikes on Gadhafi forces have joined the call for an inquiry after the brutality in which Gadhafi was treated by his revolutionary captors after his capture.

Gadhafi’s rotting body was put on public display for four days, and public viewing was stopped after and the stench became too overpowering, causing the  authorities to decide to bury it in an unidentified location  by Tuesday. Scenes as the public filed to view the bloodied and manhandled and battered leader lying on a mattress of the cold storage room showed how deep was the hatred of Gadhafi, and authorities could not control outbursts of anger.

Media  reports on the scene said that most Libyans were not concerned about the circumstances of Gadhafi’s s death, but rather were relieved that the man who ruled them for 42 years was gone,  clearing the way for a new beginning. “If  Gadhafi were taken to court, this would create more chaos, and would encourage his supporters. Now it’s over,” one shop owner in Tripoli said.

The interim leader did not reflect the strong undercurrent of anger.  He told BBC, “At the personal level I wish Gadhafi was alive” so he would face questions from the Libyan people buckling under decades of harsh rule.

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An autopsy completed on Sunday in Misrata, where Gadhafi was taken after his capture in Sirte, showed that Gadhafi was killed by a shot to the head, but the chief pathologist did not disclose further details or elaborate on Gadhafi’s end, heightening the chaos and tensions over the death.

A local military commander in Misrata, where the forces which captured him took him, said “over enthusiastic” fighters took matters into their own hands when they came face to face with the man they despised.

“We wanted to keep him alive but the young guys, things went out of control,” said one commander.  News services reporting from Misrata said few people in Libya—where thousands of people, including civilians, were killed by Gadhafi’s forces in the seven-month rebellion—say they are troubled by the manner of his death.

The reports said that if Gadhafi was indeed killed by his captors, it will cast doubt on the promises by Libya’s new rulers to respect human rights and prevent reprisals.

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TAGS: featured columns, Human Rights Watch, Libya, Moammar Gadhafi, opinion
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