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Volunteers carry a body as they try to identify 26 exhumed bodies found in unknown graves that were buried during the conflict between rebel fighters and forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, in Sirte

Human Rights Watch says it has new evidence indicating that forces opposed to Moammar Gadhafi beat and executed a large group of his supporters after the ousted leader’s capture and death last year. Gadhafi died October 20, 2011, after his convoy of supporters trying to flee the city of Sirte was hit by an airstrike and attacked by militia members. The HRW report says militias subjected detainees from Gadhafi’s convoy to brutal beatings and later executed 66 of them at a nearby hotel.

VOA’s Susan Yackee spoke about the report with Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch emergencies director. Below are some highlights of the interview. Click the sound file below for a fuller version of the conversation.

Peter Bouckaert

“I was actually in Sirte”

I was actually in Sirte when Moammar Gadhafi was captured and killed and led the investigation into those events. … It was quite an amazing day. We were at the hospital when the battle was taking place and suddenly somebody arrived with a golden handgun and surprised us all by saying that they had just captured Moammar Gadhafi. … We were unaware that he had already been killed. They then brought Abu-Bakr Yunis, who was his chief of defense, dead, to the hospital, as well as some other inner circle members, and it soon became clear that it had been a very bloody battle. And we then accompanied the convoy carrying Moammar Gadhafi’s body from Sirte to Misrata.

Stumbling across bodies

We just kept coming upon more bodies, and we really wanted to figure out what had happened. And as the story unfolded, we found out that Moammar Gadhafi and his son, Mutassim, as well as many members of their convoy were captured alive by the rebels. Moammar Gadhafi was basically lynched at the scene. He was stabbed with a bayonet in his rear, and already had heavy wounds and basically bled to death, it appears, at the scene. His son, Mutassim Gadhafi, was taken back to the city of Misrata, which is about a two-hour drive. He was filmed there – drinking water, smoking cigarettes and speaking to his captors, but the same evening his body was laying next to his father’s with additional wounds, which were not visible in the earlier videos when he was alive. But, perhaps most disturbing was, we stumbled across 53 bodies at a nearby hotel which were clearly executed. Their hands were bound behind their backs and they had been killed there by the rebels from Misrata.

Evidence of brutal abuse

We’re not just talking about the death of Moammar Gadhafi. I think it would have been better if he had been put on trial for his crimes so many unanswered questions about what happened in Lockerbie, what happened at the Abu Salim prison where more than 1,200 prisoners were executed, massacred in 1996. Those could have been addressed, but we should not forget that more than 66 people in his convoy, who just happened to be part of the people fleeing from Sirte were taken away. They were very brutally abused. We have the video tapes, taken by the rebels themselves, showing them beating, cursing and spitting up on these captured persons and then they were executed so that’s a very significant war crime and it should be prosecuted as such.

Click to listen to a fuller version of the interview with Peter Boukhaert (5:02):

Susan Yackee

Susan Yackee is anchor of VOA's International Edition radio show. She has been a reporter in the Washington area for more than 35 years and regularly interviews newsmakers and analysts in DC and around the world. Susan works in television, radio and social media.

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