UN to probe all sides for possible abuses in Libya

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GENEVA: Investigators launching a U.N.-ordered probe into wartime human rights abuses in Libya vowed Friday to visit villages, prisons and conflict zones, sparing no one and no region from scrutiny.

The probe into possible violations of international human rights laws will look into actions of Moammar Qaddafi’s forces and those by anti-government rebels, said UN war crimes expert Cherif Bassiouni of Egypt who heads the three-member investigating panel.

"We intend to gather whatever evidence or facts may be accessible to us," said Bassiouni, an emeritus law professor at DePaul University in Chicago.

Bassiouni said the panel will leave Geneva on Sunday for its month-long tour of Libya to investigate "all human rights violations — and it applies to anyone and any party.

"We will go into Libya, and we don’t know what we will see there, the difficulties we will face," he said.

The council ordered the human rights investigation following Qaddafi’s regime crackdown on protesters in February.

By excluding no one from his investigation, Bassiouni was potential including also actions of the NATO-led mission that has been enforcing a UN-sanctioned no-fly zone over Libya and targeting military forces on the ground.

Council spokesman Cedric Sapey told the AP that UN security staff will accompany the panel’s three members to help them try to travel as widely as possible, despite the ongoing conflict.

Soon after the council ordered the probe its president, Thai Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow, wrote to then-Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa to seek assurances Qaddafi’s government would fully cooperate. Koussa fled to Britain via Tunisia last week, but Libya’s secretary of legal affairs and human rights, Husni Al Wahichi El Sadik, said the government would welcome and cooperate with the probe, according to a correspondence between Phuangketkeow and Tripoli, a copy of which was obtained Friday by The Associated Press.

Phuangketkeow told reporters Friday he expects Libyan authorities not to block the panel in its search for "the facts of the alleged continuing violations in Libya and aim to bring a measure of accountability and justice to the victims."

The council ordered its investigative panel’s report to be completed by June 17, but Bassiouni said the panel already plans to ask for more time to investigate.

"This is a very short period of time to be able to do the work," Bassiouni said. "We will do the best we can, but it is our intention to recommend an extension."

A second member of the panel, Canadian lawyer Philippe Kirsch, said the investigation applies only to abuses committed "in the course of an armed conflict" and not what may have led up to it. The third member of the panel is former Jordanian culture minister and human rights lawyer Asma Khader.

The council could forward the report to the UN General Assembly or to the UN Security Council, which has already asked the International Criminal Court to launch a war crimes investigation in Libya.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor, has said he was "100 percent" certain that his investigation into attacks on Libyan protesters by government forces will lead to charges of crimes against humanity.


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