Not only does Misrata have smart or rather brilliant engineers, the town has very smart lawyers. These quick thinking lawyers made sure that the police stations and the barracks were not destroyed by the people, when the town was overrun on February 17. As a result of this thinking ahead, these lawyers have gathered thousands of documents that point to the criminality of the Gadhafi regime in ordering the death and destruction of the people of Misrata. This is documentary evidence that has not been seen by Louis Moreno Ocampo.
The UK Guardian has the story on how this documentary evidence has been accumulated by the people of Misrata. It is evidence that ties Gadhafi to the giving of military orders to lay siege to Misrata and to deny the men, women and children in the city the right to water, food and fuel necessary to keep them alive.
The Observer was last week granted exclusive access to view some of the files – documents that even the ICC has not yet seen. A glance at the paperwork is astonishing: on the top of one file is a letter from 4 March, two weeks after Misrata rose up to defy Gaddafi, signed by the general he put in charge of the operation to quell the protest: Youssef Ahmed Basheer Abu Hajar. Addressed to the “fighting formations”, which had by then cut all roads into the city, it issues a blunt instruction: “It is absolutely forbidden for supply cars, fuel and other services to enter the city of Misrata from all gates and checkpoints.”
Or, to put it more bluntly, he ordered his army to inflict starvation on every man, woman and child in Misrata.
Another document, bearing the stamp of Gaddafi’s Anti-Terrorism Committee – his inner circle of commanders – instructs forces to hunt down two wounded rebels who had fled to the neighbouring town of Zlitan, a clear violation of the guarantees of the Geneva conventions that demand protection for wounded combatants.
There are other documents, not to be revealed to the press – at least, not until a trial is in open court – that reveal Gaddafi’s generals giving orders to smash rebel centres, regardless of causing civilian casualties.
“We have lots of evidence that Gaddafi wanted all of Misrata gone,” said Misratan war crimes investigator Khalid Alwab, 35. “We have him [Gaddafi] saying he wanted the people of Taruga [the town to the west] and Zlitan [the town to the east] to each take half. He says that he wanted to turn the blue sea red.”
To put it into perspective, consider that no significant international war crimes trial has ever found written instructions proving that atrocities were actually ordered.
The fact that this evidence is available is down to the quick thinking of Misrata’s young lawyers: when rebellion broke out on 17 February they had the foresight to rush around the city, urging the protesters who broke into army bases and police stations not to set the buildings ablaze. And when rebel forces, aided by powerful Nato air strikes, finally pushed Gaddafi’s forces from the city, the lawyers were there again – persuading commanders not to destroy bases and depots that were overrun. Contrast this to the situation in the rebel capital, Benghazi, where protesters simply torched every official building they could find, taking with it every scrap of evidence.
Meanwhile, in Misrata the search continues: appeals go out at regular intervals for rebels who capture prisoners to go through their pockets and search their vehicles, handing in any paperwork, however innocuous it may seem.
At the next desk to Alwab is fellow investigator Wisam Suliman Alsaghayer, 26, clad in a brown robe. The paperwork he is poring over is a report on the shelling of a Coptic church 300 yards from the frontline in the shattered village of Dafniya, 20 miles to the west.
The grad missile that hit the church came through the roof and landed in the knave. For Alsaghayer, this important detail will enable him to calculate the trajectory of the missile and where it was fired from.
To the layman, that may seem a minor matter, but not to a Hague judge: to convict Gaddafi and his henchmen, the judges will need to be convinced that each specific incident can be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Dafniya remains under fire, but once engineers have determined the building will not collapse around him Alsaghayer will make the journey to the front to carry out his inspection;
These young lawyers are as smart as they are thorough. They have been building their case of crimes in Misrata committed by Gadhafi, as well as the crimes in the surrounding districts. The paperwork that is being gathered is the direct evidence required to help obtain a conviction.