11 Jun 2011

Libya rape claims questioned

9:46 am on 11 June 2011

A UN human rights investigator has cast doubts over claims that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi ordered mass rapes.

International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said on Wednesday there was evidence Libyan authorities bought "Viagra-type" medicines and gave them to troops as part of the official rape policy.

But Cherif Bassiouni, who is leading a UN rights inquiry into the situation in Libya, has suggested that the claim is part of a "massive hysteria".

Mr Bassiouni says that he had heard those claims when he visited rebel-held eastern Libya, but that government officials had made the same allegations against rebel forces.

The investigator also cited the case of a woman who claimed to have sent out 70,000 questionnaires and received 60,000 responses, of which 259 reported sexual abuse.

However, when the investigators asked for these questionnaires, they never received them.

Mr Bassiouni pointed out that it did not appear to be credible that the woman was able to send out 70,000 questionnaires in March when the postal service was not functioning.

Nevertheless, the investigator said, his team will examine the claims.

For the moment, the team has only heard of three cases, and it hopes to be able to investigate them.