Times 2

Gaddafi: How he died matters

By Prof. Ravindra Fernando

Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's fallen dictator was captured and killed by National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters on Thursday 20th October in Sirte, his hometown.

Omar al-Shibani, commander of a group of fighters said one of his men found the wounded Gaddafi and others hiding in a drainage tunnel. He disarmed him, pulled him out and walked him to one of the fighters' vehicles.

Othman, another fighter at the scene said it was difficult for Gaddafi to stand. The fighters put Gaddafi on the hood of the vehicle, and drove with him for some distance. He said a crowd gathered, and that he and others were beating Gaddafi.

Othman said that when Gaddafi was eventually placed in an ambulance, he had not yet suffered a shot to the head. Al-Shibani said Gaddafi had been shot later in the abdomen and head.

Video footage from the scene of arrest showed a wounded and bleeding Gaddafi being manhandled by fighters before being shot. Several videos showed Gaddafi was alive when he was captured and taunted and beaten by revolutionary fighters. One news agency posted a video showing Gaddafi's captors ramming a stick into his buttocks through his pants.

The NTC dismissed charges that he was executed, insisting that he was caught in crossfire between new and old regime fighters. The military leadership in Misrata, initially insisted that there would be no post mortem examination. "There will be no post-mortem today, nor any day," Misrata military council spokesperson Fathi al-Bashaagha said. "No one is going to open up his body."

Mahmoud Jibril, the acting Libyan prime minister, said he would not oppose an inquiry into Gaddafi's death, but added that there is "no reason" to doubt the credibility of an official report that he died in crossfire.

However, perhaps due to international pressure, Gaddafi's body was removed from the freezer and taken to a morgue in the city of Misrata, about 130 miles east of Tripoli for an autopsy.

Dr. Othman al-Zintani, Libya's chief forensic pathologist performed the autopsy that confirmed that Gaddafi was killed by a bullet to the head. The report added that there were scars of old surgeries on both the left and right sides of Gaddafi's abdomen as well as in his left thigh. He did not reveal further details.

Libya's justice department said that Gaddafi's death was caused by a shot to the left-side of his head and another to the abdomen. A medical source in Libya said: "There are multiple injuries. There is a bullet in the abdomen and in the brain."

However, the findings did not clear up the circumstances of his death, and Dr. al-Zintani said he could not elaborate until a full report has been sent to the Attorney General. NTC leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil has ordered an inquiry to establish whether Gaddafi was killed in an execution-style slaying after being captured alive by fighters in his hometown of Sirte or whether he died in the crossfire as government officials have suggested.

Gaddafi is well known in the Forensic world because he was alleged to be responsible for the deaths of 270 people when a bomb exploded Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988.

Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi a former intelligence officer, former head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines and former director of the Centre for Strategic Studies in Tripoli, was convicted by a panel of three Scottish judges sitting in a special court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Megrahi was freed on compassionate grounds by the Scottish Government in August 2009 following doctors reporting that he had terminal prostate cancer. In May 2002, Libya offered up to US$2.7 billion to settle claims by the families of the 270 killed in the Lockerbie bombing, representing US$10 million per family.

After days of public exposure in a market freezer, the body of Gaddafi was buried in a secret location in a religious ceremony along with the bodies of his son Mutassim and Gaddafi's ex-defence minister Abu Bakr Yunis Jaber.

Britain's new Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said "It is not the way we would have liked it to have happened. We would have liked to see Colonel Gaddafi going on trial, ideally at the International Criminal Court, to answer for his misdeeds not only in Libya but of course the many acts of terrorism that he supported and perpetrated outside Libya, of which we in Britain have a disproportionately large number of victims".

Mr Hammond urged an investigation into the death of Gaddafi. "It's certainly not the way we do things, it's not the way we would have liked it to have happened," he said. Cuban leader Fidel Castro has said that Gaddafi has been kidnapped and exhibited as a war trophy, a conduct that violates the most elemental principles of Muslim norms and other religious beliefs.

The New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW), said that the video footage, photos and other information it obtained indicate that Gaddafi and his son might have been executed after being detained.
"Finding out how they died matters," said Sarah Leah Whitson of HRW. "It will set the tone for whether the new Libya will be ruled by law or by summary violence."

Whatever the crimes and human right violations Gaddafi is alleged to have committed no one has a right to kill him. This should not be a repetitive event or precedence for future fallen dictators.

(The writer is Senior Professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo)

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