TRIPOLI, Libya - The New York-based Human Rights Watch warned Monday of a "trend of killings, looting and other abuses" by those who fought Muammar Qaddafi, after finding 53 decomposing bodies - apparently of Qaddafi loyalists - some of whom it said may have been executed by revolutionary forces.
The bodies were found on the lawn of the abandoned Mahari hotel in Sirte, and some had their hands bound. HRW researcher Peter Bouckaert said the hotel had come under the control of fighters from Misrata before the killings took place.
The condition of the bodies suggested the men were killed between Oct. 15-19, the group said. Bloodstains on the grass and spent cartridges indicated some were shot and killed at the spot they were discovered.
"This latest massacre seems part of a trend of killings, looting, and other abuses committed by armed anti-Qaddafi fighters who consider themselves above the law," Bouckaert said in a statement. "It is imperative that the transitional authorities take action to rein in these groups."
The group called on Libyan authorities to conduct an immediate investigation.
Apparent Execution of 53 Gaddafi Supporters (Human Rights Watch)
Rebel fighters in Misrata a city which had been besieged by Qaddafi loyalists for weeks in the spring, coming under heavy shelling at the time had no immediate comment.
Qaddafi's death paved the way for the liberation declaration, but it remains unclear what happened in his final moments.
Libya's interim leader said Monday he has ordered an investigation into Qaddafi's death in response to strong international pressure to determine how the ousted leader was killed by a bullet to the head shortly after he was captured alive.
Jibril Othman, a Libyan fighter involved in the capture, said late Sunday that when he and others placed Qaddafi in an ambulance, the former dictator had not yet suffered what Libya's chief pathologist said was a fatal gunshot to the head.
Omar al-Shibani, a commander at the scene, told a news conference that Qaddafi had been bleeding from the head and the abdomen when he was pulled out of the pipe, but that it was unclear whether the head wound was from a gunshot.
One Qaddafi son, Muatassim, also was killed, but the former leader's one-time heir apparent, Seif al-Islam, apparently escaped with some of his supporters.
The U.S., Britain and international rights groups have called for an investigation into whether Libya's former rebels killed a wounded Qaddafi after pulling him out of a drainage pipe in his hometown of Sirte, the last city to fall to revolutionary forces after an 8-month civil war.
Critics also have said the gruesome spectacle of his blood-streaked body laid out as a trophy for a fourth day of public viewing in a commercial freezer raises questions about the new leadership's commitment to the rule of law.