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Libya: Attacks against Misratah Residents Point to War Crimes - Amnesty International

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As safety, human rights and living conditions continue to deteriorate in the Western Libyan city of Misrata under siege by Gaddafi forces, on Thursday, May 5th, Amnesty International, which has had observers inside the shattered city, announced this press release:

(Amnesty International)

Libya: Attacks against Misratah residents point to war crimes

6 May 2011

Attacks by forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddafi on civilian and residential areas of Misratah may amount to war crimes, Amnesty International said today in a new report on the bleak situation in the besieged city.

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Misratah: Under Siege and Under Fire (this link goes to the detailed 44 page PDF file for download) accuses al-Gaddafi forces of unlawful killing of civilians due to indiscriminate attacks, including use of heavy artillery, rockets and cluster bombs in civilian areas and sniper fire against residents.

It also documents systematic shooting at peaceful protesters and enforced disappearance of perceived opponents, which can amount to crimes against humanity.

"The scale of the relentless attacks that we have seen by al-Gaddafi forces to intimidate the residents of Misratah for more than two months is truly horrifying," said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's senior adviser currently in Libya.

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"It shows a total disregard for the lives of ordinary people and is in clear breach of international humanitarian law."

Amnesty International called on the Tripoli authorities to put an immediate end to indiscriminate attacks and direct attacks against civilians or civilian objects.

Since Misratah declared its allegiance to opposition forces in February, al-Gaddafi's forces have used their positions around the city and in the centre to launch relentless indiscriminate attacks into the city's residential neighbourhoods.

Scores of residents not involved in armed confrontations have been killed and hundreds injured, many by indiscriminate 122mm Grad rockets fired from up to tens of kilometres away, and by mortars and 155mm artillery shells.

Rockets, mortars and artillery shells are designed for use against massed infantry or armour. Under international humanitarian law, none of these weapons should ever be used in populated residential areas.

Early in the morning of 14 April, a dozen residents were killed and many more were injured when several salvos of rockets rained down on the Qasr Ahmad neighbourhood of Misratah. Many of the victims were standing in a queue outside a bakery.

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On 15 April, Amnesty International found evidence that mortars containing cluster submunitions were being used in residential areas, including in the city centre.

The organization said that cluster munitions, which cannot discriminate between civilians and soldiers, should never be used in any circumstances and that their use in residential areas was a flagrant violation of the international prohibition on indiscriminate attack.

Amnesty International also found that sniper fire was used by al-Gaddafi forces to target residents in areas under the control of opposition fighters, preventing them from moving around freely. 

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