If Colonel Gaddafi Was Murdered Then That Is A War Crime

colonel muammar gaddafi

Jeevan Robinson

Release Date

Saturday, October 22, 2011


No one, with a clear conscience, should begrudge the Libyan people for celebrating the emotions of a future without Colonel Muammar Gaddafi as their leader. Libya, after years of colonial rule, followed by strongman Gaddafi, now has a very real chance at establishing true democracy and freedom. The Libyan people deserve it, as certainly do all people around the world that live in the shadow of dictatorship and privation.

Despite my happiness for the Libyan people, there is another matter that sparks reservations. That concerns the manner in which Colonel Muammar Gaddafi finally met his end.

As I sat watching the reports of his death on television, and the bloodied images of his body were displayed, I wondered if in fact the rebels' who captured him murdered Gaddafi. There were initial reports from the National Transitional Council (NTC) that suggested Gaddafi died from bullet wounds sustained during a crossfire encounter. But was this truly what happened? Was Gaddafi, in actuality, murdered by his captors, in contravention of international law and the treatment of prisoners of war?

Some will understandably argue that Gaddafi deserved death. This precedent if allowed to stand, would herald a very dark phase in the conduct of war, and makes illegitimate any claim by the West or other nations that they are abiding by international law in removing future strongmen such as Gaddafi from power. The images of Gaddafi lying dead has further escalated the discussion as to whether he was shot in cold blood. The New York Times carried a report stating that the images of Gaddafi's dead body, depict what forensic experts say, appear to be bullet wounds to his head caused by being shot at close range.

Gaddafi needed to go. Everyone is agreed on that. It defies belief that Gaddafi chose to hold out for so long, in a desperate attempt to preserve his power base. The actions of Gaddafi over the preceding months of the Libyan conflict, shows what I term to be the psychotic delusion of power hungry men such as Gaddafi, Mubarak, Assad and others, who believe that absolute power should be theirs to oppress the lives of their citizens continually. In these circumstances, to prove such delusions void of rationality, I support intervention. But I cannot support direct killings and the blatant disregard for international law. If Gaddafi was shot in cold blood, then does that not go contrary to the rules of combat and amounts to a war crime?

Amnesty International has joined in the calls for Libya's National Transitional Council to carry out "a full, independent and impartial inquiry to establish the circumstances of Colonel Gaddafi's death".

Presidents Obama and Sarkozy, along with Prime Minister Cameron all quickly addressed their respective media outlets in an effort to vindicate their initial foray into Libya. Sarkozy, who has been the most vocal in pushing for military intervention in Libya, commented that it was now time for reconciliation in unity and freedom. He further stated The death of Muammar Gaddafi turned a page for the Libyan people and signalled the start of a democratic process.

When NATO first launched its offensive to support the Libyan rebels', I was not initially in support. I remained circumspect throughout the entire operation. My initial objection was my affliction over who were these rebels' that the West was throwing its support behind? What were the assurances that they would be any better than Gaddafi when they eventually assumed power? I suppose we will now have our moment to witness their style of rule and governance.

But I do believe that if a new Libya is going to be built upon democratic principles and the rule of law, then the final edict of the former Libya, or the first cornerstone of the new Libya - whichever way you chose to look at it - which was the removal of Colonel Gaddafi; then the circumstances of his death ought to be clarified.

As signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, the Western countries that took part in the Libyan offensive have a moral duty to ensure that Article Ten of the Human Rights act is upheld. Article Ten states, Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him."

There was a statement from Rupert Colville, Spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for human rights in Geneva, where he commented in The Guardian that the shakily filmed mobile phone footage showing Gaddafi captured and alive but wounded, and then subsequently dead, was very disturbing'. Colville went on to say that an existing UN panel investigating human rights abuses in Libya would probably examine Gaddafi's death.

If a war crime was committed by the rebels in shooting Colonel Gaddafi in cold blood, then it must be dealt with in recognition of international law.

Jeevan Robinson is Editor-in-Chief of MNI Alive. He can be reached at

Picture credited to Reuters

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