Africa

Libya's rebel forces committed abuses, says Amnesty

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Media captionRichard Galpin says the assault on Bani Walid is temporarily "on hold"

Amnesty International has called on Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) to take steps to prevent human rights abuses by anti-Gaddafi forces.

In its latest report, the group says that while the bulk of violations were carried out by loyalist forces, anti-Gaddafi fighters have also been involved in torture and killings.

Earlier, Col Muammar Gaddafi vowed in a TV message to fight "until victory".

The whereabouts of the 69-year-old fugitive leader remain unknown.

In another development, NTC leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil has delivered his first public speech in Tripoli since the ousting of Col Gaddafi, urging a modern democratic state based on "moderate" Islam.

Anti-Gaddafi forces have halted their assault on the town of Bani Walid which remains in loyalist hands. Correspondents say they have been met with more resistance than they had expected.

'Revenge killings'

In its report, Amnesty International concludes that the majority of abuses during the conflict have been committed by forces loyal to Col Gaddafi.

They include deliberate attacks on civilians, a widescale campaign of enforced disappearances, and arbitrary detention and torture - atrocities which could amount to war crimes, it says.

But, it says, those fighting Col Gaddafi have also been complicit in serious violations.

"Opposition fighters and supporters have abducted, arbitrarily detained, tortured and killed former members of the security forces, suspected Gaddafi loyalists, captured soldiers and foreign nationals wrongly suspected of being mercenaries fighting on behalf of Gaddafi forces," says the report, entitled The Battle for Libya - Killings, Disappearances and Torture.

The report refers to the lynching of black Africans suspected of being mercenaries hired by Col Gaddafi, as well as revenge killings and the torture of some captured pro-Gaddafi soldiers.

Amnesty said a full picture had yet to emerge, but said it had asked Libya's opposition leadership to take steps to rein in its supporters and investigate any abuses, and to combat xenophobia and racism.

"The NTC is facing a difficult task of reining in opposition fighters and vigilante groups responsible for serious human rights abuses, including possible war crimes but has shown unwillingness to hold them accountable."

Mohammed al-Alagi, a justice minister for Libya's transitional authorities, said that describing the rebels actions as war crimes was wrong.

"They are not the military, they are only ordinary people," Mr al-Alagi told the Associated Press news agency.

He said the rebels had made mistakes, but said these could not be described as "war crimes at all".

'Not detained'

Earlier, Col Gaddafi vowed to fight "until victory", in a statement read out by a presenter on a loyalist television station.

"All that remains for us is the struggle until victory and the defeat of the coup," Col Gaddafi was cited as saying on Syrian-based Arrai TV.

However, whereas previous messages were audio recordings of Col Gaddafi, this was a statement read out on air.

Arrai's owner, Mishan Jabouri, said Col Gaddafi was still "leading the struggle from Libyan lands, and not from Venezuela, Niger or anywhere else," but that security reasons meant he could not read the message himself, Reuters reports.

In Tripoli, thousands packed Martyrs' Square to hear Mr Jalil outline his plans for the country.

The NTC leader said Libya would be governed as a moderate Muslim democracy and the new leadership would not accept any extremist ideology. He also said women would play an active role in the new government.

"We are a Muslim nation, with a moderate Islam, and we will maintain that. You are with us and support us - you are our weapon against whoever tries to hijack the revolution," he said.

In a separate development, Niger's government has said Col Gaddafi's son Saadi is under surveillance but has not been detained, after he crossed the border into Niger.

"Nothing has changed in the government's position. There is no international search for him. Like the others he is just under surveillance," the spokesman told Reuters news agency.

The comments came after the US state department said Niger had confirmed they would detain Saadi Gaddafi in Niamey, the capital.

Saadi is among 32 members of Col Gaddafi's inner circle - including three generals - who have crossed the lengthy desert border into the central African nation since 2 September, Niger's Prime Minister Brigi Rafini told diplomats on Monday.

Mr Rafini said the Libyans had been taken in by Niger for "humanitarian reasons" and said none of those known to have crossed the border were being sought by the International Criminal Court.

On Monday, anti-Gaddafi fighters said they lost seven men fighting for Bani Walid after they were betrayed by local people who led them into an ambush.

Fighting in Bani Walid was halted on Monday, with one commander telling the BBC they were waiting for Nato warplanes to continue their airstrikes, which are targeting the heavy weapons being used by Col Gaddafi's men inside the town.

Families fleeing the town say the streets are deserted with people either staying inside their homes or leaving. The shops are all closed and there is a shortage of food, they say.

Fifteen guards were also killed when pro-Gaddafi forces attacked an oil refinery near the town of Ras Lanuf.

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