Will NATO Talk to Civilian Victims of Its Airstrikes in Libya?

Libya - The Forgotten Victims of NATO Strikes

Mohammed al-Morabit, 6, killed when his home in Zitan was struck by NATO on 4 August 2011.

In the aftermath of the NATO military campaign in Libya, a certain kind of triumphalism  can be heard in the statements of NATO officials.   There is no doubt that the government of Libya’s former dictator, Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi, engaged in significant human rights violations against Libyan society.

But four months after the NATO military campaign, Libya still faces massive human rights challenges.  From ongoing torture to a political system balkanized by rival militias, it is clear that the departure of a dictator does not guarantee the protection of human rights.

Indeed, NATO itself has not fulfilled its responsibility to the survivors of the conflict.

In our latest report, Amnesty International highlights the continued suffering of civilian victims of NATO airstrikes in Libya.  As airstrike survivor Mustafa Naji al-Morabit told my colleagues during a research mission to Libya:

Crimes Against Humanity: ICC Prosecutor Requests Arrest Warrant For Gaddafi

10-year-old Maryam Mahmoud al-Hassouni was killed by shrapnel on 5 April 2011 from a mortar which landed in the courtyard of her home in Zawia al-Mahjoub neighbourood of Misrata while she played there. © Amnesty International

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo today requested arrest warrants for Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and the country’s spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi,  for Crimes Against Humanity.

In the world of international justice, this request comes at lightning speed: After the UN Security Council (unanimously!) referred the situation to the ICC only days after violence and armed hostilities broke out in Libya in mid-February, the request for arrest warrants comes only three months later.

In a press conference held today, Moreno-Ocampo stated that al-Gaddafi personally ordered attacks against unarmed civilians. His office collected evidence that security forces shot peaceful protesters, that heavy weaponry was used against participants in funerals, and that snipers shot at civilians. According to the ICC prosecutor, these crimes were committed in a systematic and widespread manner and are still ongoing in areas under al-Gaddafi’s control. While the ICC judges will consider the request for arrest warrants, the Office of the Prosecutor will continue to collect evidence, including on potential war crimes committed since armed conflict broke out in Libya.