UN rights office urges inquiry into Gaddafi death

GENEVA Fri Oct 21, 2011 4:37pm IST

The body of slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is seen inside a storage freezer in Misrata October 21, 2011. REUTERS/Saad Shalash

The body of slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is seen inside a storage freezer in Misrata October 21, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Saad Shalash

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GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights office called on Friday for a full investigation into the death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and voiced concerns that he may have been executed.

Separate cellphone images showed a wounded and bloodied Gaddafi first alive and then later dead amidst a jostling crowd of anti-Gaddafi fighters after his capture in his hometown of Sirte on Thursday.

"There's a lot of uncertainty about what happened exactly. There seem to be four or five different versions of how he died," U.N. human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told Reuters Television in an interview.

"If you take these two videos together, they are rather disturbing because you see someone who has been captured alive and then you see the same person dead.

"We are not in a position to say what has happened at this point but we feel that it is very important that this is clarified, that there is some sort of serious investigation into what happened and what caused his death," he said.

Asked whether the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was concerned Gaddafi may have been executed while in captivity, Colville replied:

"It has to be one possibility when you look at these two videos. So that's something that an investigation needs to look into," he said.

ARRESTED ALIVE, KILLED LATER

It is a fundamental principle of international law that people accused of serious crimes should be tried if possible, he said. The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants in June for Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and intelligence chief for crimes against humanity.

"Summary executions are strictly illegal under any circumstances. It's different if someone is killed in combat. There was a civil war taking place in Libya. So if the person died as part of combat, that is a different issue and that is normally acceptable under the circumstances," Colville said.

"But if something else has happened, if someone is captured and then deliberately killed, then that is a very serious matter," he said.

Gaddafi was fatally wounded by a bullet in his intestines following his capture, according to a doctor who examined his body, amid conflicting accounts of how the fugitive former Libyan leader met his end at the end of an eight-month uprising against his 42-year rule.

"Gaddafi was arrested while he was alive but he was killed later. There was a bullet and that was the primary reason for his death, it penetrated his gut," doctor Ibrahim Tika told Al Arabiya television. "Then there was another bullet in the head that went in and out of his head."

Earlier, Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, reading what he said was a post-mortem report, said Gaddafi was hauled unresisting from a "sewage pipe", shot in the arm and put in a truck which was "caught in crossfire" as it ferried him to hospital.

Jerky footage showed a man with Gaddafi's distinctive long, curly hair, bloodied and staggering under blows from armed men, apparently NTC fighters.

An international commission of inquiry, launched by the U.N. Human Rights Council, is already investigating killings, torture and other crimes in Libya.

Colville said he expected that the team would look into the circumstances of Gaddafi's death and perhaps make recommendations about the need for a full national inquiry or an international investigation.

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