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Leaving Sirte Safely

October 12, 2011

During any type of conflict that involves violence, the people who lose the most are the innocent civilians trying to escape that violence.

You don’t have to look further than the town Sirte in Libya, where people are trying to escape unscathed from the fighting between the National Transitional Council (NTC) and pro-Gaddafi fighters.

Unfortunately, Human Rights Watch is reporting violence directed towards civilians as they try to leave Sirte.

Fleeing residents said that NTC-aligned forces had repeatedly shelled some residential neighborhoods over the past two weeks. The residents had mostly huddled in their homes for safety during the attacks and were unable to say where pro-Gaddafi forces were positioned at the time.

and

While some families reported no problems leaving Sirte, others alleged that Gaddafi forces had tried to block their exit from the city by firing at them or above their vehicles. These families said they took circuitous routes to escape, sometimes through agricultural fields. Deliberate attacks on civilians are war crimes, Human Rights Watch said.

During times of armed conflict, both sides engaged in the conflict must take all measures to ensure the safety of civilians. Any harm brought upon unarmed civilians is a war crime by definition of the Geneva Conventions and is punishable by it.

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