Libyan human rights violations a predictable result of U.S./NATO intervention

With the bodies of dozens of Muammar Gaddafi loyalists found at a hotel in the Libyan city of Sirte after apparently being executed en masse, Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling on Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) to launch an investigation into the apparent mass execution in order to bring those responsible to justice.

“We found 53 decomposing bodies, apparently Gaddafi supporters, at an abandoned hotel in Sirte, and some had their hands bound behind their backs when they were shot,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, who investigated the killings. “This requires the immediate attention of the Libyan authorities to investigate what happened and hold accountable those responsible.”

HRW said the victims died about a week ago. The atrocity, however, has been overshadowed by the killing of Muammar Gaddafi himself, in what looks increasingly like a blatant extrajudicial execution.

HRW has also called for an investigation into the death of Gaddafi, saying that the NTC “should promptly open an independent and impartial investigation with international participation into the deaths of the former leader Muammar Gaddafi and his son Muatassim Gaddafi.”

“There is ample evidence to open a credible investigation into the deaths of Gaddafi and his son Muatassim,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Finding out how they died matters. It will set the tone for whether the new Libya will be ruled by law or by summary violence.”

It is apparent though that despite the pleas of the human rights community, there is little sympathy in the West — and the U.S. in particular — for any sort of inquiry into the violations of international law that may have occurred in the process of overthrowing the Gaddafi regime. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was even captured on video laughing about the execution of Gaddafi, saying, “we came, we saw, he died.”

The U.S. attitude expressed by its highest diplomat is emblematic of the attitude expressed from the beginning of this intervention, which was initially justified by a UN Security Council Resolution that authorized NATO to implement a no-fly zone to protect civilians. This authorization was then construed by Western leaders to justify a policy of regime change, even though this was decidedly not authorized by the UN Security Council.

In a  joint op-ed published on April 15, Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy wrote:

So long as Gaddafi is in power, Nato and its coalition partners must maintain their operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds. Then a genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process can really begin, led by a new generation of leaders. For that transition to succeed, Colonel Gaddafi must go, and go for good.

Two weeks after this op-ed was published, on April 30, NATO attempted to take out Gaddafi with a missile attack on a residence in Tripoli, which killed his youngest son Saif al-Arab and three of his grandchildren. Gaddafi and his wife were apparently in the home, but survived the attack. Saif al-Arab was reported to be a 29 year-old student and a civilian.

In response, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich said that “NATO’s leaders have blood on their hands.”

NATO’s airstrike seems to have been intended to carry out an illegal policy of assassination. This is a deep stain which can never fully wash. This grave matter cannot be addressed with empty words. Words will not bring back dead children. Actions must be taken to stop more innocents from getting slaughtered.

Today’s attack underscores that the Obama Doctrine of so-called humanitarian intervention appears to be a cover for regime change through assassination and murder.

After months of bombing and fighting, NATO and the anti-Gaddafi armed rebels finally took control of Tripoli in late August, but it soon became clear that Gaddafi loyalists still had a holdout in the country, in Sirte, Gaddafi’s birthplace.

As ex-British Ambassador Craig Murray noted at the time, NATO further twisted the United Nations’ mandate “to protect civilians” in Libya into an excuse to not only remove Gaddafi from power but also kill his supporters, both military and civilian. Murray wrote at Consortiumnews that this Orwellian logic was then used for crushing of the town of Sirte, the last Gaddafi stronghold:

There is no cause to doubt that, for whatever reason, the support of the people of Sirte for Gaddafi is genuine. That this means they deserve to be pounded into submission is less obvious to me.

The disconnect between the UN mandate “to protect civilians” while facilitating negotiation, and NATO’s actual actions as the anti-Gaddafi forces’ air force and special forces, is startling. …

It is worth reminding everyone something never mentioned, that UNSCR 1973 which established the no-fly zone and mandate to protect civilians had “the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution.”

That is in Operative Para 2 of the Resolution.

Plainly the people of Sirte hold a different view than the “rebels” as to who should run the country. NATO has in effect declared being in Gaddafi’s political camp a capital offence.

There is no way the massive assault on Sirte is “facilitating dialogue.”  It is rather killing those who do not hold the NATO approved opinion. That is the actual truth. It is extremely plain.

In August, the United Nations began speaking against the NATO assault, especially following the bombing of a television station.

UN official strongly condemned a NATO airstrike targeting the headquarters of Libyan State TV, in a bombing that Libyan officials say resulted in the deaths of journalists and civilians.

“I deplore the NATO strike on Al-Jamahiriya and its installations,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said following the attack.

“Media outlets should not be targeted in military actions,” she said. “U.N. Security Council Resolution 1738 (2006) condemns acts of violence against journalists and media personnel in conflict situations.”

Bokova said the NATO bombings were “contrary to the principles of the Geneva Conventions,” which she said have established the civilian status of journalists in times of war, even if they engage in propaganda. She noted that the NATO strikes killed three journalists and wounded 21 others.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon weighed in on Aug. 11, offering some of his strongest remarks on the NATO operation in Libya, saying through a spokesperson that he was “deeply concerned by reports of the unacceptably large number of civilian casualties.”

“The Secretary General calls on all parties to exercise extreme caution in their actions, in order to minimize any further loss of civilian life,” the statement said.

On August 23, following the rebels’ takeover of Tripoli, Fred Abrahams, a special adviser at Human Rights Watch coordinating the organization’s coverage of the Libya crisis, wrote:

Daunting tasks face the transitional leadership, the National Transitional Council, in the days and weeks ahead, particularly in the area of human rights. How they tackle those challenges will set the tone in Libya for years to come.

First is the responsibility to avoid revenge. Fighters with the council should treat all of their detainees humanely, from members of the Gadhafi family to captured fighters on the streets. They should turn the page on the old regime’s standard use of torture and abuse. …

It is clear today that many in the “newly liberated” Libya are now fearful of their new leaders, and unhappy with the way they disposed of Gaddafi without even a trial:

While human rights groups may now express surprise, shock and disappointment that the U.S./NATO-led intervention in Libya is leading to unintended consequences, and may even represent a step back for human rights in the beleaguered North African nation, none of it should come as a surprise.

As this blog noted last April, just a couple of weeks after the U.S. and NATO intervened in the Libyan civil war, “when an intervention is launched in violation of international law, human rights violations tend to proliferate.”

Click here for more of the Compliance Campaign’s Libya coverage.


About The Compliance Campaign

Campaigning for a United States in compliance with its international obligations. Follow on Twitter here: Facebook: Comments, article submissions or news leads are welcome at compliancecampaign [at]

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