Investigators say they will gather evidence, cooperate with the International Criminal Court
United Nations investigators
said on Friday they would start next week to probe alleged human
rights violations committed by all sides in Libya's conflict and
share evidence with the UN war crimes tribunal.
The independent commission of inquiry said its mandate was
to investigate abuses by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, the
rebels fighting to topple him, and foreign parties involved in
The three-member team, headed by American war crimes expert
Cherif Bassiouni, declined to reveal its exact travel schedule
but will stop first in Egypt and also visit Tunisia and Libya.
It would gather testimony and evidence widely, including on
rape and use of mercenaries, and make every effort to protect
witnesses from reprisals.
"We'll talk to everybody. We will be visiting hospitals, so
we will be talking to people who are injured, we will be going
to prisons, we'll talk to people who are in prison," the
Egyptian-born Bassiouni told a news conference in Geneva.
"We will be talking to combatants, civilians, any available
source of information will be addressed," he said.
The team would travel to largely rebel-held eastern Libya
and the government-held west and attempt to reach besieged towns
including Misrata, depending on the security situation. "Our
work will be done on both sides with complete impartiality."
It has told the government of its plans and Tripoli issued a
statement saying it would welcome them from April 15, according
He said the team was cooperating with the International
Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, whose prosecutor Luis
Moreno-Ocampo also is looking into possible war crimes by
Gaddafi, his sons and his inner circle.
Moreno-Ocampo has said Libyan authorities had decided they
were ready to kill unarmed protestors even before unrest spread
from neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt.
"We don't work for the ICC, they don't work for us. We have
a mandate, they have a mandate. We have, however, decided that
we are going to have a collaborative relationship," Bassiouni
The UN Human Rights Council, composed of 47 member states,
unanimously approved launching the inquiry on February 25. The
Geneva forum denounced attacks on civilians, killings, arrests
and the detention and torture of peaceful demonstrators, saying
they may amount to crimes against humanity.
Bassiouni, asked whether the inquiry would look into any
crimes by foreign powers, said: "If you read the mandate, it
said human rights violations in Libya. It doesn't say by whom,
it doesn't say against whom. Period. Whoever commits a violation
will be reported."
"Now, whether that rises to the level of criminal
accountability and how this is communicated to the ICC or other,
we'll cross that bridge when we reach it," he said.
Libyan government officials say NATO airstrikes have killed
civilians, including children, in areas under Gaddafi's control
although the alliance says it has not seen evidence that this is
the case. NATO said on Friday its aircraft probably killed
rebels in a friendly fire incident a day before near the oil
port of Brega. Rebels have said five of their fighters died.
The other two panel members are Philippe Kirsch, a Canadian
former judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC), and Asma
Khader, a Jordanian lawyer and former minister.
Khader, an expert in sexual crimes, said it would look into
rapes, including the case of a Libyan woman Eman al-Obaidi who
last month accused pro-government militiamen of gang-raping her.
"We all watched the case of Obaidi and we heard that there
are other women in the same case. Of course it will be one major
part of our investigation."