Amnesty: NATO Failed to Investigate Libya Civilian Deaths

Written by Mr. Michael Holden*

NATO has failed to properly investigate or provide compensation for civilian deaths caused by its air strikes during the seven-month operation in Libya that helped bring about the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, Amnesty International said on Monday, 19 March 2012. Echoing similar criticisms aired this month by Russia, Amnesty said scores of Libyans, who were not involved in the conflict, had been killed or injured in NATO bombings but there had been no proper investigations into their deaths. “NATO officials repeatedly stressed their commitment to protecting civilians,” Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty, said in a statement. “They cannot now brush aside the deaths of scores of civilians with some vague statement of regret without properly investigating these deadly incidents.”

Inquiries should determine whether any civilian casualties resulted from a breach of international law, and if so, those responsible should be brought to justice, Amnesty said. The NATO military mission, authorized by the United Nations Security Council, began on March 31 last year with the aim of protecting civilians under attack or threat of attack. NATO forces carried out some 26,000 sorties including some 9,600 strike missions and destroyed about 5,900 targets before operations ended on October 31.

Investigators for the U.N. Human Rights Council concluded earlier this month that NATO had caused civilian deaths but had taken extensive precautions to ensure civilians were not killed.

Amnesty agreed NATO had made significant efforts to minimize the risk of civilian casualties, through precision bombing and warning where strikes would occur. However, the rights group said that did not absolve NATO from carrying out investigations into any deaths, or making reparations to victims or families of those killed. Survivors and victims’ relatives interviewed by Amnesty said they had never even been contacted by NATO.

Amnesty said NATO itself had documented 55 cases of civilians, including 16 children and 14 women, being killed in air strikes in Tripoli, Zlitan, Majer, Sirte and Brega, often in private homes with no clear evidence of any military purpose. Another 34 people, including eight children, were killed in three separate attacks on two houses in Majer with no explanation for why they were targeted, Amnesty said. NATO’s most recent response to Amnesty stated it “deeply regretted any harm” its air strikes had caused but said it no longer had a mandate to carry out any activities in Libya.

Two weeks ago, Russia criticized the U.N. investigators for failing to adequately probe civilian deaths caused by NATO during last year’s uprising, saying children and journalists had been killed. “In our view, during that (NATO) campaign many violations of the standard of international law and human rights were committed, including the most important right, the right to life,” said Maria Khodynskaya-Golenishcheva, a diplomat at the Russian mission to the U.N. in Geneva. Russia had criticized NATO action which it said should have been limited to protecting civilians and not helping the overthrow of Gaddafi.

*Source: Reuters, London

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International Studies Student
written by Atul Menon, March 27, 2012

I am not surprised by this appalling behaviour and lack of responsibility being taken by NATO. To start of with, the framework under which the air strikes occurred, was done in a hurried and in such a fashion where the operational manner was not clearly defined in terms of targeting and extent of force. It is high time that NATO (which may have acted in a precautionary sense with regards to Gaddafi’s intentions)take responsibility for its course of actions. The truth is whatever the over all good of the air strikes,innocent people have also lost their lives and face years of anger, sadness and resentment. This needs to be addressed appropriately.




Research Associate
written by Zoran, April 03, 2012

NATO’s action should come at no surprise. It’s mandate was to enforce a no-fly zone not to intervene in the civil war that was happening in Libya.
NATO’s behavior and treatment of civilian targets could be seen in their intervention in the FRY in 1999 with no UN mandate. Cluster bombs and depleted uranium was used and there were many civilian casualties. The worst case was the bombing of the city of Nis where 36 loads of cluster bombs were dropped in the city’s centre.
The consequences of the use of depleted uranium can still be felt. After the bombing year by year the number of people suffering from leukemia and lymphoma increased drastically.
I expect, as is the case of the bombing of the FRY, the casualties and consequences of NATO bombing of Libya to be pushed under the carpet and forgotten.

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