Rebels fighting to topple Muammar Gaddafi carried out unlawful killings and torture, human rights group Amnesty International has said.
A report based on three months of investigation in Libya, said the crimes of Gaddafi loyalists were far worse than those of the former rebels, who now hold power in Tripoli: But it said the crimes of the rebels were not insignificant.
"Members and supporters of the opposition, loosely structured under the leadership of the National Transitional Council (NTC) ... have also committed human rights abuses, in some cases amounting to war crimes, albeit on a smaller scale," the Amnesty report said.
It said opposition supporters "unlawfully killed" more than a dozen Gaddafi loyalists and security officials between April and early July. And just after the rebels took control of eastern Libya, the report said, angry groups of rebel supporters "shot, hanged and otherwise killed through lynching" dozens of captured soldiers and suspected mercenaries, with impunity.
Mohammed al-Alagi, justice minister for Libya's transitional authorities, said that describing the rebels' actions as war crimes is wrong.
"They are not the military, they are only ordinary people," al-Alagi said. While he acknowledged that rebels have made mistakes, he said they cannot be described as "war crimes at all."
In addition, the report said both sides stirred up racism and xenophobia, causing sub-Saharan Africans to be increasingly attacked, robbed and abused by ordinary Libyans.
"In February, there was this rumour about Gaddafi using black people as mercenaries; that's wrong," Nicolas Beger, director of the Amnesty International European Institutions office, said. "But the NTC has not done a lot to curb that rumour and now there is a lot of retaliation against sub-Saharan Africans. Whether they were or they weren't involved with the Gaddafi forces, they are at real risk of being taken from their work or their homes or the street to be tortured or killed."
He also said abuses were continuing under the new government. "We have even spoken to guards who admit that they use force," he said. "They say, 'Yeah we use force in order to get confessions, in order to force people to hand in their weapons.' So this really needs to be controlled. This is one of the priorities that the new authorities have to really get a clear act on."
The report also listed an extensive list of crimes allegedly committed by Gaddafi's regime. The loyalists killed and injured scores of unarmed protesters, made critics disappear, used illegal cluster bombs, launched artillery, mortar and rocket attacks against residential areas, and, without any legal proceedings, executed captives, the report said.