[JURIST] Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] accused forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile] of committing war crimes in Misratah in a report [text, PDF press release] on Thursday. According to the report, Gaddafi's troops have employed excessive use of lethal force against unarmed protesters, fired snipers at civilians in residential areas of the city and even deliberately used civilians as "human shields." "Shielding," AI alleged, "is a violation of international humanitarian law and constitutes a war crime." Additionally, according to AI Gaddafi's forces also used cluster munitions [JURIST news archive], which are heavily criticized by international observers and have been the subject of international eradication efforts. Misratah appears to be targeted as a result of its declaration in February of allegiance to opposition forces. While many have been able to escape the widespread violence, those left behind continue to suffer:
The scale of the relentless attacks that we have seen by al-Gaddafi forces to intimidate the residents of Misratah for more than two months is truly horrifying. It shows a total disregard for the lives of ordinary people and is in clear breach of international humanitarian law. ... Scores of residents not involved in armed confrontations have been killed and hundreds injured, many by indiscriminate 122mm Grad rockets fired from up to tens of kilometres away, and by mortars and 155mm artillery shells. Rockets, mortars and artillery shells are designed for use against massed infantry or armour. Under international humanitarian law, none of these weapons should ever be used in populated residential areas.AI has urged Gaddafi to put an end to direct attacks on civilians and has called on the international community to lend financial and legal support to international investigations into human rights abuses in Libya.
Earlier this week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo announced [JURIST report] that an investigation has uncovered enough evidence to allow him to pursue warrants for forces loyal to Gaddafi for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Moreno-Ocampo said he has found evidence that Libya began hiring mercenaries as early as January in anticipation of protests after unrest began in the Middle East [JURIST news archive]. Regarding war crimes, the chief prosecutor claims to have uncovered evidence of the use of "cluster munitions, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, and other forms of heavy weaponry, in crowded urban areas, in particular Misratah." Moreno-Ocampo will present his evidence to the Pre-Trial Chamber of the ICC [official website] and request warrants be issued for three individuals.