February 24, 2011 / 4:02 PM / 9 years ago

French rights boss says up to 2,000 dead in Libya

PARIS (Reuters) - France’s top human rights official said on Thursday there was evidence to suggest Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had committed crimes against humanity and that up to 2,000 people had been killed in the revolt against him.

In an interview with Reuters, ambassador for human rights Francois Zimeray also said the International Criminal Court (ICC) was the only viable way to achieve justice and that international sanctions had to be “immediate.”

“The question is not if Gaddafi will fall, but when and at what human cost,” he said at his office in the foreign ministry. “For now the figures we have ... more than 1,000 have died, possibly 2,000, according to sources.”

The ministry said earlier in the day a U.N.-backed team should be sent to Libya to investigate possible crimes against humanity following the bloody crackdown on the revolt there.

“There are precise and cross-checked elements to suggest crimes against humanity and that justifies a legal inquiry and the intervention of international justice,” Zimeray said.

Zimeray, a former lawyer at the ICC, added that while Libya was not a member of the court, it could still be taken to justice if the U.N. Security Council approved it.

“Facing crimes that are against humanity the only response that works is through justice not vengeance,” he said


There are concerns among European Union states about immigration. Gaddafi has fuelled alarm in the EU by saying last week he would stop cooperating with the bloc on stemming the flow of migrants to the EU from Africa.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has estimated that up to 300,000 could flee Libya towards Italy’s coast.

“There is a kind of migratory terrorism that Gaddafi is trying to put in place,” Zimeray said. “It is clear that with the disintegration of the state, all the smugglers will take advantage of this,” he adds.

The U.N. Security Council and its human rights arm have been deliberating on strong resolutions that could lead to action against the Gaddafi regime, but until now have been in disagreement.

“There is the need for effective and immediate sanctions and not just potential and symbolic ones as has happened elsewhere,” Zimeray said, backing the idea of an oil embargo on Libya.

Editing by Andrew Roche

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