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Libyan rebels tarnished by human rights report

An Amnesty International report released today said Libyan rebels 'committed abuses' amounting to 'war crimes,' raising fresh concerns about post-conflict justice in Libya.

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'Settling of scores'

In Tripoli today, active relations with members of the former regime, pro-Qaddafi actions in the past, or even just a personal grudge can cause trouble. Indeed, revenge attacks against suspected loyalists of the former regime and opportunistic “settling of scores” continues, according to Amnesty.

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“The new authorities must make a complete break with the abuses of the past four decades and set new standards by putting human rights at the center of its agenda,” Amnesty's senior director Claudio Cordone said in a statement. “The onus now is on the NTC to do things differently, end abuses and initiate the human rights reforms that are urgently needed.”

The NTC, whose leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil only arrived in Tripoli from the former rebel headquarters of Benghazi on Saturday, has stated repeatedly that it will not tolerate abuses. But the myriad forces that have converged on the capital – from cities in eastern Libya, to towns in the western mountains, blending with a mix of irregular volunteers and ad hoc neighborhood militias – has made total control impossible.

“The NTC is firmly committed to upholding human rights and the rule of law … the violation of rights no longer has a place in Libya,” the NTC said is a statement issued in response to the Amnesty report. “The NTC is putting its efforts to bring any armed groups under official authorities and will fully investigate any incidents brought to its attention.”

Amnesty took testimony from 200 detainees in rebel hands since the fall of regime, and “believes that hundreds of people have been taken from their homes, at work, at checkpoints, or simply from the streets.”

It reports that many were ill treated upon arrest, were “beaten with sticks, backs of rifles, kicked, punched and insulted, at times while blindfolded and handcuffed.” Sometimes they were “shot after being seized,” said Amnesty.

'Widespread and systematic' abuses

Most Libyans speak of the far greater crimes committed by the Qaddafi regime during more than four decades of power.

Qaddafi himself, his son Saif al-Islam, and his intelligence minister Abdullah al-Senoussi have been wanted since May by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, for “widespread and systematic” attacks that left thousands dead, according to chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Obampo.

Among many crimes, and “evidence” of orders coming from Qaddafi himself, Mr. Moreno-Ocampo found that pro-Qaddafi forces “shot demonstrators with live ammunition, used heavy weaponry against participants in funeral processions, and placed snipers to kill those leaving mosques after prayers.”

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