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Society | Politics | Human rights

Attacks on Misrata "are war crimes"

72-year-old Khamis in front of his shelled home in Misrata, Libya

© Amnesty/afrol News
afrol News, 6 May
- Attacks by forces loyal to Colonel Ghaddafi on civilian and residential areas of Misrata, Libya, "may amount to war crimes," according to human rights specialists.

The human rights group Amnesty International in a new report released today says that the Ghaddafi regime must be held responsible for the bleak situation in the besieged Libyan city Misrata.

The report accuses Ghaddafi forces of "unlawful killing of civilians due to indiscriminate attacks, including use of heavy artillery, rockets and cluster bombs in civilian areas and sniper fire against residents." It also documents systematic shooting at peaceful protesters, "which can amount to crimes against humanity."

"The scale of the relentless attacks that we have seen by Ghaddafi forces to intimidate the residents of Misrata for more than two months is truly horrifying," said Amnesty's Donatella Rovera, currently in Libya.

"It shows a total disregard for the lives of ordinary people and is in clear breach of international humanitarian law," Ms Rovera adds.

Since Misrata declared its allegiance to opposition forces in February, Colonel Ghaddafi's forces have used their positions around the city and in the centre to launch relentless indiscriminate attacks into the city's residential neighbourhoods.

Scores of residents not involved in armed confrontations have been killed and hundreds injured, many by indiscriminate 122mm Grad rockets fired from up to tens of kilometres away, and by mortars and 155mm artillery shells.

"Rockets, mortars and artillery shells are designed for use against massed infantry or armour," Amnesty details. "Under international humanitarian law, none of these weapons should ever be used in populated residential areas," the human rights group holds.

Amnesty also recently found evidence that mortars containing cluster sub-munitions were being used in residential areas, including in the city centre.

The group said that "cluster munitions, which cannot discriminate between civilians and soldiers, should never be used in any circumstances and that their use in residential areas was a flagrant violation of the international prohibition on indiscriminate attack."

Amnesty called on the international community to support the international investigations into human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in Libya, in particular the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Commission of Inquiry established by the UN Human Rights Council.

On 4 May, ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the UN Security Council that he will ask ICC judges to issue arrest warrants against three unnamed individuals for crimes against humanity committed in Libya. It is believed that Colonel Ghaddafi is one of these three persons.

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