26 Aug 2011

UN concerned about revenge killings in Libya

3:56 pm on 26 August 2011

The United Nations has called on both sides in the Libyan conflict to take steps to ensure there are no acts of violence and revenge.

It comes as reports emerge of abuses and alleged summary killings by both rebels and troops loyal to Colonel Gaddafi.

The UN has also agreed to release $US1.5 billion in Libyan assets - which had been frozen under sanctions - to help with immediate humanitarian needs.

South Africa had stalled the move, raising among its concerns that giving money to the National Transitional Council indicated officially acknowledging it as Libya's leaders - something it and the African Union has yet to do.

Fighting has continued in Tripoli, which is now largely in rebel control, with gunfights erupting in the city's Abu Salim district, one of the few remaining Gaddafi holdouts in the capital.

The rebels have also been attempting to reach Col Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte but have been met with fierce resistance. There were reports that NATO planes carried out air strikes on the city overnight.

Late on Thursday, the National Transitional Council said it had moved its political base from the rebel stronghold Benghazi to the capital.

UN human rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said it was difficult to confirm reports of summary killings and torture, but said such incidents would be investigated by the existing Commission of Inquiry on Libya.

The UN has previously said some military action in Libya could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity.

Earlier this week, the NTC's chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, urged rebels not to engage in revenge attacks against pro-Gaddafi fighters, threatening to resign if his warning was not heeded.

Amnesty International says it has "powerful testimonies" of abuses by both sides in the coastal town of Zawiya, including allegations of violence by rebels against African migrant workers accused of being mercenaries.