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article imageMass graves found in Libya, more than 150 bodies discovered

By Lynn Herrmann     Sep 14, 2011 in Crime
Tripoli - At least 13 mass graves have been found in Libya over the last three weeks, with 125 bodies found at 12 separate locations in and around Tripoli, and the International Committee of the Red Cross says more mass graves are being found each week.
Another site near the town of al-Qawalish, in the Nefusa mountains of western Libya, turned up the remains of 34 people. ICRC states hundreds of families have reported disappearances of family members in Libya.
“This week we dispatched two forensic experts to the field to support our colleagues already involved in the management of human remains,” said Carole Pittet, an ICRC staff member in Tripoli, according to an ICRC news release. “The experts will also be advising the Libyan Red Crescent, local councils, health and religious authorities and other partners.”
The 34 bodies in the mass grave at al-Qawalish appear to be those of men detained by Gaddafi loyalists in early Jun, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports. Evidence found at the site suggests the detainees were executed around that time, before pro-Gaddafi forces fled the area. Three additional bodies which appear to have been killed by the same Gaddafi loyalists were found nearby.
“The mass grave at al-Qawalish contains further evidence strongly suggesting that Gaddafi loyalists carried out mass executions of detainees as they struggled to suppress the uprising,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at HRW. “These victims included some very old men, some executed together with their sons.”
Witnesses told HRW the al-Qawalish mass grave included at least nine men over the age of 60, including an 89-year-old man. The majority of victims were from al-Qal’a, a nearby town.
HRW visited the region shortly after Gaddafi loyalists had fled the area July 6. New authorities in towns near al-Qawalish provided names of 173 missing men, including 81 from al-Qal’a. Fate of the missing was unknown until rebels captured a Gaddafi supporter whose mobile phone contained a gruesome video clip showing dead bodies of men, bound and blindfolded, lying in a clearing.
Family members of many of the missing told HRW they recognized some of the dead in the video, as well as the location, a forest near a Libyan Scouts base at the edge of al-Qawalish.
It remains unclear at this time which forces were in command of the Scouts base, but HRW notes its interviews of former detainees revealed most of the soldiers at the base were a part of the “Civil Guard” (Haras al-Sha’bi). Graffiti around the base indicates the unit was the “Storm Forces.” The Civil Guard is a paramilitary group connected to revolutionary committees of Gaddafi’s government.
“The evidence of mass executions by Gaddafi forces keeps on mounting and Libyans deserve to know that the killers will be brought to justice,” Bouckaert added in the HRW report. “The new government should guarantee that evidence of such terrible crimes will prompt a full accounting and real justice for the victims.”
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