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Amnesty International Says War Crimes Conducted in Libya

Bullet casings litter a street in the besieged city of Misrata, Libya, April 23, 2011 (file photo).
Bullet casings litter a street in the besieged city of Misrata, Libya, April 23, 2011 (file photo).

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Libyan forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi may be guilty of war crimes, Amnesty International said Friday. In a new report, the international watchdog described ongoing attacks against the civilian population in Misrata.

Battles have raged through the streets of Misrata for more than two months now and Amnesty says in that time troops loyal to Gadhafi have unleashed a "truly horrifying" string of attacks against civilians.

Hundreds killed

On Friday, the group published a report saying the total disregard for civilian lives is a clear breach of international law.

Donatella Rovera, a senior advisor at Amnesty is in Benghazi, the rebel stronghold in eastern Libya.

From there she told VOA of the bloodshed in Misrata. She says hundreds of people have been killed or injured.  

"The rocket attacks, the artillery attacks, which fall onto civilian neighborhoods, hit civilian houses, and kill civilians - those are weapons that are designed for the battlefield and should not be used in residential areas," said Rovera.

Cluster bombs have also been used, she said.

Residents fleeing

Rovera said many people have fled their homes to safer neighborhoods and are now concentrated in a few areas furthest from the line of fire. But, she said, they are still by no means safe.

Misrata is Libya’s third largest city. It’s located in western Libya, a part of the country that is still mostly under the control of Mr. Gadhafi.

His forces have surrounded the city on three sides and have stepped up attacks on the city’s port, the sole lifeline for international aid and the evacuation of refugees.

Dire situation

Rovera says the city is under siege and the humanitarian situation is dire.

"Obviously there is no electricity or running water or anything by way of working services in the town," she added.

ICC investigation

On Wednesday, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said he will seek warrants against three Libyans who bear "the greatest criminal responsibility" for crimes against humanity.

He told the United Nations Security Council that he has evidence Libya's government committed war crimes.

Rovera says the violations committed in Libya do constitute war crimes.

"It is very important that the investigation takes place and that it is given the full resources that it needs," Rovera explained.

This week an aid ship ferried over 1,000 people from Misrata to Benghazi. The International Organization for Migration said they had been forced to leave hundreds of people behind and that heavy shelling in the port area means they have no immediate plans to return to Misrata.

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