In the aftermath of the attack on the Brak al-Shatti airbase on 18 May (see above), a number of bodies were brought to a local hospital bearing single gunshot wounds to the head, raising concerns that they had been shot dead after capture. Some bodies were reported to have been found with their hands bound.
On 18 May, a recent returnee, displaced since the 2011 armed conflict, was shot dead near his Tomina home, in the outskirts of Misrata, following an earlier dispute with a man believed to be a member of the Tomina-based Martyr Omar Issa armed group.
On 20 May, the body of a male bearing a gunshot wound was brought to a Tripoli hospital. The victim’s hands and legs were bound with metal chains. He was reportedly abducted some 40 days earlier by armed groups in Wershefana. On 21 May, the body of a 24 year old man was brought to a Tripoli hospital bearing torture marks.
At around 9:30pm on 26 May, a Tripoli hospital received six bodies of guards from the al-Hadba Correction and Rehabilitation Institution. Five bore similar gunshot wounds to the back of the head, raising concerns of possible summary execution. Some hours earlier, TRB gained control of the facility previously headed by Khaled al-Sherif, a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Senior figures in Mu’ammar Qadhafi’s regime were among the some 160 inmates held at the facility, including former director of Military Intelligence Abdullah al-Senussi, former head of External Security, Abu Zeid Dorda, and Saadi al-Qhadafi, son of the former ruler. Unconfirmed reports indicated that at the time of writing inmates were held at the al-Na’am Farm under the control of the Commander of the TRB.
The figures for civilian casualties set out above only include persons killed or injured in the course of hostilities and who were not directly participating in the hostilities. The figures do not include those casualties that are not a direct result of hostilities, for example executions after capture, torture or abductions, or casualties caused as an indirect consequence of hostilities. The figures are based on information UNSMIL has gathered and cross-checked from a broad range of sources in Libya, including human rights defenders, civil society, current and former officials, employees of local governments, community leaders and members, witnesses, others directly affected and media reports. In order to assess the credibility of information obtained, where possible, UNSMIL reviewed documentary information, including medical records, forensic reports and photographic evidence.
The figures are only those that UNSMIL was able to document in the reporting period. They are not likely to be complete and may change as new information emerges about incidents involving civilian casualties that took place during this period.
Similarly, while UNSMIL has systematically tried to ensure that the cases it documented are based on credible information, further verification would be required to attain a higher standard of proof. Due to the security situation, UNSMIL has not been able to carry out direct site visits to all relevant locations in Libya to obtain information. Fear of reprisals against sources further hamper information gathering.
While not all actions leading to civilian casualties breach international humanitarian law, UNSMIL reminds all parties to the conflict that they are under an obligation to target only military objectives. Direct attacks on civilians as well as indiscriminate attacks – which do not distinguish between civilians and fighters – are prohibited. Attacks that are expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects excessive to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage are also prohibited. Such attacks amount to war crimes that can be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.
In order to ensure greater protection of the civilian population and essential infrastructure, all parties engaged in fighting in Libya must cease the use of mortars and other indirect weapons and imprecise aerial bombardments in civilian-populated areas, and not place fighters or other military objectives in populated areas. All executions of captives must cease and all those captured including fighters must be treated humanely in all circumstances. Murdering or torturing captives is also a war crime, regardless of what the captive may be accused of.