Gadhafi burial delayed amid death probe

Even in his death, Moammar Gadhafi appears to be the subject of impassioned dispute — this time over what to do with his corpse and how to clear up precisely how the fallen Libyan dictator came to such a violent end.

WARNING: This story contains a graphic image

The body of slain Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is seen inside a storage freezer in Misrata, as people gather around it Friday. (Saad Shalash/Reuters)

Even in death, Moammar Gadhafi appears to be the subject of impassioned dispute — this time over what to do with his corpse and how to clear up precisely how the fallen Libyan dictator came to such a violent end.

The UN Human Rights office is calling for an investigation into the death of the former Libyan strongman, whose ouster ignited nine months of civil war. The agency says questions remain about whether Gadhafi was killed in cross-fire during a clash or summarily executed after he was reportedly pulled out alive on Thursday from a drainage pipe in Sirte.

Libya's interim government, the National Transitional Council, had earlier told news agencies that Gadhafi would be buried by Friday in accordance with Islamic rites, which dictate that bodies be buried within 24 hours of death. A grave site had not yet been determined.

But the slain strongman's bloodied body was still on public display Friday, with hundreds of elated Libyans waiting their turn in Misrata to snap pictures inside the meat locker where he's being stored.

The NTC confirmed that the burial would be delayed pending an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Gadhafi's death. The burial could be pushed back another two days, said Mahmoud Jibril, the North African nation's interim prime minister.

'Mixed signals' on death

The day after Jibril confirmed Gadhafi's death, questions lingered in Canada about about how this country might react to what may have amounted to an illegal execution.

Liberal MP John McKay acknowledged that Canada has received "mixed signals" about how Gadhafi died, but that there are "pretty serious allegations that Mr. Gadhafi was captured and then summarily shot."

During question period in the House of Commons Friday, McKay asked Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird whether the scenario of a Gadhafi execution — a "revenge killing" in his words — would be an affront to the rule of law, and the latest move in a cycle of violence.

"My first thoughts are with the Libyan people, not with their former dictator," Baird responded, adding that the government is focused on democratic development and demilitarizing the country.

McKay later told the media the response was a missed opportunity.

"If governments like the government of Canada don’t speak up at critical points such as this about the rule of law, then there is a possibility that all may be lost," he said.

Burial on hold pending investigation

An official from Libya's National Transitional Council's has told CBC News that he believes Gadhafi will be buried in or near his hometown of Sirte.

But Mustafa El-Huni, a member of the NTC's Finance, Economy and Oil Committee, does not know when the burial will occur.

In the meantime, Libyan officials are trying to determine how to handle the burial process and NATO officials were meeting Friday to discuss the end of the Libya mission. 

"We believe there is a need for an investigation," said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights. "More details are needed to ascertain whether he was killed in some form of fighting or was executed after his capture."

The UN Human Rights Council established an independent panel earlier this year to investigate abuses in Libya, and Colville said it would likely examine the circumstances of Gadhafi's death.

He said it was too early to say whether the panel — which includes Canadian Judge Philippe Kirsch, the first president of the International Criminal Court — would recommend a formal investigation at the national or international level.

'Dust hasn't settled yet'

"The dust hasn't settled yet," Colville told The Associated Press when asked if Libya was capable of conducting an independent probe into the death.

"You can't just chuck the law out of the window," he added. "Killing someone outside a judicial procedure, even in countries where there is the death penalty, is outside the rule of law."

Amnesty International urged Libyan officials to ensure a "full, independent and impartial investigation" into how Gadhafi died. The rights group said if Gadhafi was deliberately killed after his capture, it would constitute a war crime.

"Investigating whether or not his death was a war crime might be unpopular," Claudio Cordone of Amnesty International said in a statement. "However, the NTC must apply the same standards to all, affording justice even to those who categorically denied it to others."

Gadhafi was killed Thursday after Sirte, his last remaining stronghold, fell to revolutionary fighters.

"I told them to keep it in the freezer for a few days … to make sure that everybody knows he is dead," Libyan Oil Minister Ali Tarhouni told Reuters.

Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam said revolutionary forces were discussing where the body should be interred.

Mohamed Sayeh, a senior member of the governing National Transitional Council, said the body will be buried according to Islamic tradition, but the funeral will not be public.

The Associated Press said in a report that the burial had been delayed until Gadhafi's death could be examined by the International Criminal Court — though it was not immediately clear if he was referring to a look at the dictator's body or a probe into what led to his death.

No definitive answer

Most accounts of Thursday's events agreed Gadhafi had been holed up with heavily armed supporters in the last few buildings held by regime loyalists in Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown and the scene of heavy fighting in recent weeks.


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At one point, a convoy believed to be carrying Gadhafi and other members of his regime tried to flee the area.

Airstrikes — reportedly carried out by French planes — stopped the convoy but did not destroy it, French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said. A Reuters report cited rebel forces as saying Gadhafi fled the convoy and was later pulled out of a nearby drainage pipe.

What happened after that is not entirely clear.

PM says Gadhafi killed in crossfire

The interim prime minister said Thursday that the longtime leader died after being caught in a crossfire between revolutionary fighters and Gadhafi loyalists in Sirte.

Jibril told reporters that Gadhafi was taken out of yjr sewage pipe as Sirte fell to revolutionary fighters.

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He added that Gadhafi didn't show any resistance.

"When we started moving him, he was hit by a bullet in his right arm and when they put him in a truck, he did not have any other injuries," said Jibril.

"When the car was moving it was caught in crossfire between the revolutionaries and Gadhafi forces in which he was hit by a bullet in the head," Jibril said reading from a forensic report.

Jibril said the forensic doctor couldn't tell if the bullet came from Gadhafi loyalists or anti-Gadhafi forces.

According to the Guardian, a different NTC official said that Gadhafi bled to death from a stomach wound while being transported to hospital.

After reports surfaced that Gadhafi had been killed Thursday, some revolutionary fighters told media outlets that Gadhafi had been killed after trying to escape his captors. And a New York Times report said photos of Gadhafi's body appear to show bullet holes in his head, which a forensic expert said could have been caused by close-range shots.

Videos surface

Videos purporting to show Gadhafi surfaced after news of the fugitive dictator's capture on Thursday.

One appears to show Gadhafi bloody and wounded but alive. Another video showed images of a man believed to be Gadhafi, possibly already dead, being dragged along a road.

"The two cellphone videos that have emerged, one of him alive, and one of him dead, taken together are very disturbing," Colville told reporters in Geneva.

Colville said the victims of Gadhafi's despotic 42-year-rule deserved to see proper judicial procedures followed and perpetrators of abuses brought to trial, a process he said could be "cathartic" for the new Libya.

In a statement, the UN human rights agency said that it will be "essential" for alleged perpetrators of violations to be brought before trials in line with international standards.

The statement also referred to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's statement Thursday, saying the UN rights body fully agrees with Ban's call for combatants on both sides to lay down their arms and strive for peace.

With files from The Associated Press