With the fall of the Gaddafi regime it is imperative that Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) take steps to protect civilians and not follow the violent path of the late dictator. Unfortunately, there have been multiple incidents of severe human rights violations by the opposition forces throughout the conflict and many fear the potential of reprisal targeting of former Gaddafi supporters.

Bodies of Gaddafi supporters at the Mahari Hotel in Sirte ©  Peter Bouckaert/HRW

Earlier this week, Human Rights Watch issued yet another report on serious crimes allegedly perpetrated by NTC forces. According to the report, last week 53 Gaddafi supporters were executed at a hotel in Sirte which was under the control of NTC forces. Several of the bodies had their hands tied behind their backs and others had bandages covering prior wounds. Further actions like this will only serve to create additional tension and violence. It is crucial that the NTC adhere to international justice norms and not extrajudicially execute forces opposed to them.

While it is promising that the NTC has promised to investigate and prosecute the killers of Gaddafi, they must also live up to their commitments to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and turn over Gaddafi’s son, Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, and Libya’s former intelligence chief, Abdullah Al-Senussi, to The Hague if they are captured. According to reports, the NTC may soon face that test as rumors have emerged that Saif is trying to negotiate his turnover to the court.

The NTC faces many serious challenges as they seek to rebuild their nation. A critical step towards creating national unity will depend on council’s observance of international law and dedication to justice. The council must respect human rights, even those of their opposition, and have an opportunity to demonstrate their dedication by turning over Saif and Al-Senussi to the court.

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