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Libya: an echo of seven-month war

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Igor Siletsky 

NATO is refusing to investigate cases of civilian deaths which occurred during the alliance’s last year’s operation in Libya. According to Amnesty International, over 50 people, most of whom were women and children, fell victim to NATO air raids. The alliance is not in a hurry to pay compensation to the families of those who died. In respect to declarations of protest voiced by human rights activists, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen claimed that he ‘regretted’ the casualties but, in his words, the coalition had done everything possible to avoid them.

Amnesty International’s report was published a year after the UN Security Council’s resolution on Libya was adopted on the 17th of March 2011. Russia abstained from voting because of the vague wording the resolution contained about the possibility of the use of force ‘to protect the country’s civilian population’. What followed was the worst nightmare come true. The resolution was used to justify a full-scale NATO air campaign against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

So far, we know about 55 casualties of NATO’s air raids but it cannot be ruled out that this figure is much higher because this data was collected in Libya’s chaotic post-war conditions.

Meanwhile, NATO insists on its own version, calling the Libyan campaign a ‘high-precision’ operation. According to Fogh Rasmussen, alliance forces ‘went to all lengths to verify the military character of their targets’. Fogh Rasmussen regrets ‘accidental’ civilian casualties but they are inevitable in war. After all, the NATO mandate has expired, and now the alliance has absolutely nothing to do with Libya.

However, this time Rasmussen should not be allowed to get away with just expressing condolences for the victims’ families, Donatella Rovera from Amnesty International said in her interview with The Voice of Russia

It should be noted that Amnesty International’s report does not only mention the Libyans who were killed by NATO bombs. Many people died by the hands of the ‘rebels’ whom the alliance supported from the air and armed on the ground. Analysts say that the ensuing chaos in the country, which is the result of the Libyan version of the ‘Arab spring’, does nothing to contribute to the happiness of Libyan civilians either. Cyrenaica has already announced its independence and, according to experts, tribal strife is reaching a genocidal scale. Local power is in the hands of field commanders, over 100,000 people are in possession of weapons and the role of the Interim Transitional National Council is unclear, nobody knows who its members are. Over 10,000 people are held in prisons and repressions against Gaddafi’s opponents are in full swing. All attempts by the International Criminal Court to obtain information about the situation in Libyan prisons end in failure and those who have brought this kind of ‘democracy’ to Libya are washing their hands of it.

Incidentally, the murder of over 50 civilians falls under the definition of a crime against humanity and, consequently, under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. However, the West is unlikely to allow the Hague to bring an action against anyone among NATO high command.

NATO memberstates have often resorted to the International Criminal Court when it benefited them and when they were certain of the outcome. For example, this also happened during the investigation of the crimes against humanity committed during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. As for Libya’s case, they are fully aware that the Court would condemn NATO’s actions in the country.

A year after the bombing of Libya began, even the West has admitted that the price of ‘success’ was too high. Political scientists believe that the ‘seven-month war’ could remain one of its kind. In future, the UN Security Council will be unlikely to consider missile attacks to be an adequate measure of protecting civilians in any country.


Mar 20, 2012.