Proof of war crimes held in Libya for ICC
THOUSANDS of documents said to reveal in chilling detail orders from Col Muammar Gaddafi's senior generals to bombard and starve the people of Misrata have been gathered by war-crimes investigators and are being kept at a secret location at the besieged Libyan port.
The vital documents could form damning evidence in any future war-crimes trial of the Libyan leader at the International Criminal Court (ICC). The court's prosecutors are expected to travel to the city to view them once the daily bombardments have ceased.
One document shows an instruction to government units to starve Misrata's population during the four-month siege. Another instructs units to hunt down wounded rebel fighters, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions.
Plans to bombard the city and terrorise the population are also in the archive, say investigators, who claim that they have a message from Gaddafi relayed to the troops ordering that Misrata be obliterated and the "blue sea turned red" with the blood of the inhabitants.
The documents are expected to form a crucial element of any trial against Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and his intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi if, as is expected, International Criminal Court judges confirm indictments for war crimes and crimes against humanity that are demanded by its chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo.
They represent a landmark in international justice because no significant war-crimes trial in the short history of international courts has had access to documents directly implicating the lead players in the commission of war crimes.
The documents have yet to be revealed to the ICC, according to the 60-strong team of Libyan lawyers who collect evidence. "We are ready to show them to the ICC," said Khalid Alwafi, a Misrata war-crimes investigator. "They are free to contact us."
The documents were saved when lawyers supporting the rebellion told protesters who broke into army bases and police stations to protect the buildings against arson. Elsewhere in the rebel-held parts of eastern Libya, such buildings have been completely destroyed along with their contents.
Government forces who surrender to the rebels are searched and any documents they carry are preserved in case they can be used as evidence. Mr Alwafi said yesterday that he believed Gaddafi's forces had not been ordered to destroy documents because they had not expected to be overrun.
Meanwhile NATO said yesterday that it mistakenly struck a column of Libyan rebel vehicles in an airstrike near an eastern oil town on Thursday, and expressed regret for any casualties that might have resulted.
NATO has accidentally hit rebel forces before in its air campaign. The rebels have also complained that NATO's strikes have not helped them gain decisive momentum against the Libyan leader's better trained and equipped military.