“There’s no way they killed Muammar Gaddafi, that’s not our operating mode and I’ve been involved in 30 years with the takeouts and change the regimes.”
– Qaddafi Was Captured Alive—Who Killed Him? (The Atlantic, Oct. 21, 2011):
Libya’s rebels, the U.S., and NATO may all hold responsibility for the death — perhaps by execution — of a man they’d pledged to bring to trialA few hours after the first photos emerged showing former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s lifeless body, a YouTube user named “freemisrata” posted a video appearing to show one of Qaddafi’s last living minutes. The New York Times noted of the video, which was quickly broadcast on CNN and Al Jazeera English, “The man’s injuries and clothing match those of the man said to be Colonel Qaddafi who appeared to be dead in video that emerged online earlier on Thursday.” The man, who bears an incredible resemblance to Qaddafi, appears bloody and terrified but still well enough to walk. He is surrounded by a tight crowd of screaming, angry, armed young men. Immediately after the camera cuts away, a burst of gunfire can be heard off-screen, although as the Times notes it may have been celebratory. The video, which is graphic and disturbing, is below.At first, members of the new Libyan government had said that Qaddafi had been seized after a firefight, but they changed their story after this video’s emergence. “They captured him alive and while he was being taken away, they beat him and then they killed him,” a senior member of Libya’s transitional government told Reuters. The rebel fighters who captured Qaddafi found him hiding in a large concrete drainage pipe beneath a highway in the town of Sirte, photos of which are here.
How did Qaddafi end up hiding in a concrete pipe? The space is clearly too small and too unguarded to be a long-term hideaway like Saddam Hussein’s desert spiderhole. News reports have claimed that the rebels initially found Qaddafi while he was traveling in a convoy. Late today, after hours of refusing to comment on the Libyan’s death, U.S. officials started suggesting they might have played a very direct role. “US officials tell NBC News a US Predator drone fired a hellfire missile at convoy carrying Khadafy, who was then captured by rebels,” NBC News’ Ann Curry reported on Twitter. A NATO spokesperson acknowledged they had fired on a convoy.
If the U.S. and/or NATO had fired on Qaddafi convoy, this would certainly explain why rebels might find their former leader bloodied and crawling off of a road into a concrete drain pipe. It would also suggest that, even if the U.S./NATO attack wasn’t trying to kill Qaddafi (though how you bomb someone’s car in a way that isn’t also trying to kill him is a mystery), it played a direct role in the demise he met soon after.
What did happen to Qaddafi after the video above cut away? No one can seem to say for sure. Libyan interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril admitted late on Thursday that Qaddafi had been found alive but insisted he had been killed accidentally. “There was cross-fire and he was shot while they were carrying him to a truck,” Jibril said. It’s of course possible that this is accurate, but it’s difficult to imagine what crossfire there might have been. The above video showed dozens of rebels crowded around Qaddafi and no pro-Qaddafi troops in sight. How, exactly, do two bullets of “crossfire” happen to wiz their way through such a dense crowd and just happen to strike Qaddafi in the head and chest?
Jibril told NPR, “Nobody can tell if the shot was from the rebel fighters or from his own security guard.” By his own security guard? At least they’re not claiming suicide.
Revolutions are messy at best, especially when they’re led by an irregular and informally organized force of civilians who have picked up Kalashnikovs and titled themselves revolutionaries. It’s not exactly a surprise that a group of angry young men would choose not to respect the rule of law at a moment of eye-to-eye contact with — and absolute power over — the brutal dictator who had so relentlessly ruined their country, their lives, and their families’ lives. It would not have been difficult to predict, in other words, that despite the interim government’s many assurances of a peaceful and orderly civilian trial for Qaddafi, that in the end the angry young men with guns — who, after all, have led this movement from the beginning — would win out.
Still, the rule of law matters, and not just within Libya. The U.S. and European mission in Libya was premised on international law form the beginning: a resolution from the United Nations Security Council, the UN doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect,” as close as Libya could possibly get to offering NATO a popular rejection of Qaddafi and a stated invitation for outside intervention. And though NATO’s mission clearly and rapidly expanded beyond the spirit of the UN-approved “no-fly zone,” at least it remained within the letter of the resolution and within the framework of an internationally approved and Libyan-approved action. U.S. and European leaders also cited, as a premise of their intervention, the International Criminal Court warrants out for the arrest and trial of Qaddafi, son Saif, and intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi. Both NATO and Libya’s rebel leaders pledged to bring Qaddafi before a courtroom of some kind, whether in Libya or in The Hague. But the men on the ground don’t appear to have given this much mind.
For all the meticulous legality and diplomatic decorum of this war’s start, its end was as dirty as they come: the former leader of a nation hauled off the back of a truck and shot by an angry mob that was appointed by no one and accountable to nothing. It’s an inauspicious start for what the interim Libyan leadership also said was the same moment that formal political transition began.
Late on Thursday, another video emerged, this one showing son Muatassim Qaddafi apparently alive in rebel custody. Muatassim, like father Muammar, was later killed.
– Rebels accused of executing former Libyan leader and son Mutassim (Telegraph, Oct. 21, 2011):
Libya’s rebel army has been accused of executing both Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his son Mutassim in cold blood as the United Nations suggested their deaths amounted to war crimes.
Human rights groups and Gaddafi’s wife Safia called for an independent investigation into the deaths, which robbed victims’ families of the chance to see Gaddafi put on trial for his murderous acts.
Both Gaddafi and his son were filmed or photographed alive and relatively uninjured after their capture on Thursday, before both died of multiple gunshot wounds.
On Friday, at the refrigeration units in Misrata where the two bodies are being kept before their burial, young men queued for the chance to see the corpses and take pictures of them on their mobile phones.
Libya’s interim president, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, is expected to declare the country officially liberated today, though the fate of Saif al-Islam, Gaddafi’s chosen heir and the only man who could continue the fight, remains unclear.
Within Libya, Gaddafi’s death has been a cause for celebration, but its new leaders have been warned that summary executions will not be tolerated by the international community.
Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: “It is unclear how (Col Gaddafi) died. There is a need for an investigation.”
Describing footage of Gaddafi’s last moments as “very disturbing”, he said that if the former dictator had been executed: “That would raise issues that a crime had been committed and we would have to look at dealing with that. It is very clear under international law that summary executions are illegal.
“You can’t just chuck the law out of the window. Killing someone outside a judicial procedure, even in countries where there is the death penalty, is outside the rule of law.”
Oh, really??? Not anymore:
– Secret US Panel Can Put Americans On ‘KILL LIST’ (Reuters)
It raised the possibility that rebel soldiers could be pursued for war crimes.
Amnesty International, meanwhile, called for “a full, independent and impartial inquiry” into the circumstances of Gaddafi’s death.
Gaddafi’s wife, Safia, also called on the UN to investigate the death of her husband and her son, according to a Syrian TV station.
David Cameron, however, said Libya, not the UN, should investigate the deaths. His spokesman said: “The account of precisely what happened is a matter for the NTC.”
Several videos of Gaddafi after his capture near Sirte show him walking and talking to his enemies. His body was later photographed with a clean bullet hole in the left temple and bullet wounds in his abdomen and chest.
His son Mutassim, meanwhile, was photographed smoking a last cigarette and holding a bottle of water, almost uninjured, before being shot in the neck.
Mahmoud Jibril, the interim Libyan prime minister, admitted Col Gaddafi was relatively unscathed when he was captured.
He said: “When they transferred him to the pick-up truck he had no injuries. When the vehicle started moving he was caught in the crossfire and he was injured with a shot to the head.”
He said Gaddafi was taken by ambulance to Misrata, but died there from his wounds.
The NTC Information Minister, Mahmoud Shammam, said: “It seems like the bullet was a stray and it could have come from the revolutionaries or the loyalists. The problem is everyone around the event is giving his own story.”
But one member of the National Transitional Council, who asked not to be named, confessed: “They beat him very harshly and then they killed him. This is a war.”
The NTC said no orders had been given to kill Gaddafi.
Another senior NTC official said: “There have been rumours flying around since the killing of Gaddafi after images were released, claiming that our revolutionaries slaughtered him.
“No instructions were given to kill Gaddafi and we do not believe our revolutionaries intentionally killed him.”
Hisham Krekshi, the deputy chairman of Tripoli City Council, conceded that “revenge” may have played a part in Gaddafi’s death, but added: “It’s a war and everybody is happy with his death.”
Dr Ibrahim Tika, who examined the body, suggested Gaddafi was already bleeding to death from an abdominal wound by the time he was shot in the temple.
He said the “primary reason” for Gaddafi’s death was the bullet in his gut, adding: “Then there was another bullet in the head that went in and out of his head.”