Long-time Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, stranded in the desert after rebels and a Nato missile strike wrecked his escape convoy last October, apparently wanted to stage a last stand as his enemies closed in, a UN report said.
The dramatic account of the last hours of the life of the man who had ruled the country for four decades, came from an international commission of inquiry set up in March last year soon after an uprising against him began.
The 200-page report for the UN’s Human Rights Council, now holding its spring session, was released by officials of the world body in Geneva in an unedited version, but is due for discussion in the next three weeks.
The commission, led by Canadian jurist Philippe Kirsch, found that in the fighting that rolled back and forth across Libya in 2011, both sides committed war crimes, including murder and torture.
But they said “current conditions” in Libya had to be understood against the background of “the damage caused to the fabric of the society by decades of corruption, serious human rights violations and sustained repression of any opposition.”
The inquiry team said it had not been able to obtain a first-hand account of how he died – some accounts said he was shot in the head by a rebel fighter in an ambulance – and had only “inconsistent accounts from secondary sources.”
For this reason, the team said, it had been “unable to confirm the death of Muammar Qaddafi as an unlawful killing and considers that further investigation is required.”
Running into a rebel ambush, the battered convoy circled onto a coast road and split up. But a vehicle just in front of the green four-wheel-drive vehicle in which Qaddafi was travelling was hit by a Nato missile and blew up.
The explosion set off air bags in Qaddafi’s car and, under fire from rebels, he, his son and defence minister Abubakr Younis took shelter in a nearby house, which was then shelled by the rebels.
Mutassim then took some 20 fighters and went to look for undamaged cars, having persuaded his father to come too. One of Qaddafi’s guards threw a grenade at advancing rebels on the road above but it hit a cement wall above the pipes and fell in front of Qaddafi. The guard tried to pick it up, but it exploded, killing him and Younis.
“Qaddafi was wounded by grenade shrapnel that shredded his flak jacket. He sat on the floor dazed and in shock, bleeding from a wound in the left temple,” the report said. Then one of his group waved a white turban in surrender.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2012.