Lawyer says 'large scale' war crimes by Gaddafi forces

A young Libyan boy is treated at a hospital after he was lightly wounded from shelling by Muammar al-Gaddafi's forces overnight in the Ras Amar area of Misrata - AFP
A young Libyan boy is treated at a hospital after he was lightly wounded from shelling by Muammar al-Gaddafi's forces overnight in the Ras Amar area of Misrata - AFP
Benghazi, Apr 26 : Muammar Gaddafi's forces have committed 'crimes against humanity and war crimes on a large scale', according to a human rights lawyer gathering evidence in Libya to present to the International Criminal Court.
Torture, mass executions, using humans as shields and banned cluster bombs all testify to the violence inflicted by Gaddafi's regime on the Libyan population in recent weeks, French lawyer Philippe Moriceau told AFP.
Government forces charged eastwards in the middle of March, pushing back rebels seeking to topple Gaddafi into their stronghold Benghazi, and then began bombarding its western gate.
They were beaten back when NATO launched air strikes from March 19 under a UN mandate to protect Libyan civilians caught in the fighting between Gaddafi's troops and the rebels.
Newspapers worldwide have reported that Libyan troops are raping children as young as eight, even as their parents watch. Some even witnessed the murders of their fathers and mothers.
According to Moriceau, vice president of the France-based Lawyers Without Borders (LWOB) group, in the short time Gaddafi's forces attacked Benghazi, 'the motto was to 'rape, rob and kill'.
"There was systematic murder of men, women and children and rape by soldiers," the lawyer said in an interview in Benghazi.
Moriceau said there had been 'massacres and houses with dozens of bodies of civilians' found in areas on the outskirts of the city.
"We have videos," he said.
Moriceau and an Italian colleague are in Libya carrying out a Lawyers Without Borders mission to 'identify victims' and prepare a file for submission to Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.
"I do not know", whether the court will then launch proceedings against the Libyan leader," Moriceau said, adding however he believed Gaddafi was being sought to be brought to international justice.
Moriceau said a succession of LWOB teams would be working on the case as the probe "will be long and far reaching" and take "several years."
He added that Gaddafi was 'smarter than many others' and if pushed to that point would try to negotiate a departure that would ensure he did not face a trial.
The New York Times earlier this week reported that the US government had launched a search to find a country which is not a signatory to the ICC so that Gaddafi could be offered a safe haven in any exit deal.
Moriceau said the evidence gathered so far is 'extremely accurate' and shows 'systematic and widespread attacks against civilian populations on a large scale'.
"We are talking of thousands of victims" dead or wounded only in the Benghazi region alone, he said, adding that hundreds of others were missing.
Aside from the current conflict, Moriceau has dealt with previous victims of Gaddafi, who has been in power since 1969.
He said there are a number of cases of 'arbitrary imprisonments for decades without ever seeing a judge, with people dying in jail without anyone knowing'.
Moriceau cites an example of a woman who 'always brings food to the prison of Benghazi .. even though there is no hope that her husband, jailed in the 80s, is still alive. It is terrible'.
In Libya, families are obligeed to feed their jailed relatives.
Moriceau said most Libyans are suffering 'massive trauma'.
"It is rare to find somebody who has not lost a relative," he said.
"We will yet uncover many things as the repression was totally random."
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