With the battle in Sirte between Libya’s new rulers and loyalists of the ousted government of Colonel Muammar al-Qadhafi approaching its end, the United Nations today called on all parties to respect human rights and look ahead to the task of national reconciliation.
“Libya’s revolution is based upon the demand for human rights and dignity,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Ian Martin said in a news release. “I appeal to all to respect the calls made by the National Transitional Council (NTC) that there should be no revenge even against those responsible for war crimes and other grave violations.”
Mr. Martin, who heads the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), stressed that such people should be detained and brought to justice by due process of law. “This will lay the foundation for national reconciliation and the future unity of the people of Libya,” he added.
The message was echoed by Mr. Martin’s deputy, Georg Charpentier, who is also UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya and has just returned from leading a joint humanitarian assessment team in Misrata and the outskirts of Sirte, Mr. Qadhafi’s home town.
Voicing concern for civilians left in Sirte, he reiterated the responsibility of all parties to protect them and those providing aid and medical help inside the city, where fighting has led to displacement. While most residents have been taken in by host families in other towns, some have chosen to remain near Sirte and are receiving aid until the situation allows them to return.
“Local communities and charities are taking the lead in providing assistance to the vulnerable,” he said. “UN agencies and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] are supporting their efforts as and where needed.”
The joint assessment team included representatives of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UN World Health Organization (WHO), UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN World Food Programme (WFP), and the UN Office of the Coordinator of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA), as well as the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Earlier this week Mr. Martin visited war-ravaged Misrata and reported widespread destruction in the city, which experienced some of the heaviest fighting during the conflict as it was besieged by pro-Qadhafi forces for weeks, with supplies of running water and other basic amenities cut off.
As many as 1,500 people were killed there, according to local council officials, and Mr. Martin praised the “heroic struggle” of residents, conveying his condolences to the families of “martyrs” and injured.
“I have seen myself the evidence here of war crimes by the Qadhafi regime,” he said.