A Critic Gets it Wrong on Amnesty International and Libya

libya protests

Libyan protesters in Benghazi in 2011 ©Sniperphoto Agency/Demotix

In an article published by The Huffington Post and Counterpunch, author Dan Kovalik misrepresents Amnesty International’s position regarding Libya and the 2011 NATO air strikes campaign.

Without offering any supporting evidence, Kovalik falsely claims in the article “Libya and the West’s Human Rights Hypocrisy” that Amnesty International “believed NATO military action would bring about the flourishing of human rights in Libya.”   Amnesty International never made such an assertion, nor did we take a position in support of NATO airstrikes.

Amnesty International generally takes no position on the use of armed force or on military interventions in armed conflict, other than to demand that all parties respect international human rights and humanitarian law.  We are consistent in our call that all governments respect human rights, no matter what the type or form of government is.


Misratah: The Spiralling Human Cost In A City Under Fire

By Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s crisis researcher

A man holds a remnant tail section from an MAT-120 cluster munition used in Misratah © Private

Here in Misratah, Libya’s third city, we have just experienced four more days of relentless shelling by Colonel al-Gaddafi’s forces.

In just two of the residential neighbourhoods I have been able to visit in the past four days – Qasr Ahmad in the east of the city and Zawia al-Mahjoub in the west – hundreds of rockets and mortar shells have rained down, literally all over the place.

I have lost count of how many homes I’ve seen that have been hit in these clearly indiscriminate attacks.

Medical clinics, schools, mosques, factories and the port – where thousands of foreign workers are stranded and waiting to be rescued – are just some of the locations that have come under attack. Fortunately, many of the residents of the houses that took direct hits escaped injury but others were not so lucky. Adults and children alike have been killed and injured in their homes and on the streets by flying shrapnel from these projectiles.


Nafousa Mountain Libyans Living In Fear

By Diana Eltahawy, Libya researcher at Amnesty International

The Dhehiba camp in Tunisia currently hosts 1,207 Libyans © Amnesty International

In normal times, Dhehiba is a quiet, small town in southern Tunisia, three kilometres away from the country’s border with Libya. Today, times here are anything but normal.

This area is experiencing a growing influx of Libyans fleeing from their homes in the Nafousa Mountain area of western Libya because of the actions being taken there by Colonel M’uammar Gaddafi’s forces.

The actual number of those fleeing is difficult to establish as most people do not cross at the official border post but instead travel by desert back roads to try and avoid the checkpoints set up by the Libyan leader’s forces. Some do then come to the border post on the Tunisian side to have their passports stamped but others continue on directly to find refuge in Tunisia’s cities.


Mines Pose New Danger As Libya Battles Rage On

By Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s crisis researcher

As fighting continues between forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddafi and those opposed to his rule for control of the strategic oil-rich region west of Ajdabiya, yet more families are being displaced by the conflict. Evidence that al-Gaddafi’s forces have laid anti-personnel mines – which are internationally banned on account of the grave danger they pose to civilians – beside the main road on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, not just anti-tank mines, has heightened concern for the safety of local residents and people travelling in the area.

Evidence that al-Gaddafi’s forces have laid anti-personnel mines has heightened concern for local residents © Amnesty International

The anti-personnel mines were discovered only by chance when an electricity company truck drove over and detonated two of the mines on the morning of 28 March, just two days after Colonel al-Gaddafi’s forces had been forced to retreat from the area.

‘AbdelMina’ im al-Shanty, the company’s operations director for eastern Libya, told me that electricity supply workers had been dispatched to the area to repair power lines damaged during the two-week siege of the town. Fortunately, no one was injured in the blast, thanks to the sturdiness of the truck, but if any of the workers had stepped on the mines they would almost certainly have lost limbs or worse. Anti-personnel mines are banned internationally and must not be used anywhere or under any circumstances. That these anti-personnel lines were planted close to a significant population centre and in area of frequent passage is even more reprehensible.


Gaddafi's Campaign Of Disappearances

14 year old Mohamed al-Aqeeli is one of the disappeared © Amnesty International

Atef ‘Abd al-Qader Al-Atrash, a prominent blogger and father of two, was last seen attending a gathering near Benghazi’s port on February 17, when he is believed to have been seized by forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddafi. A relative of his told Amnesty that, when trying to call his phone, a strange man answered and said, “This is what happens to those who throw stones at us.”

A relative of a 14-year-old schoolboy Hassan Mohammad al-Qata’ni gone missing on February 20th told Amnesty researchers:

“I haven’t slept since he’s gone missing, nobody in my family has slept; we are so worried; he is just a kid; we don’t know what to do, where to look for him, who to turn to for help.”

A brother of another individual taken by Gaddafi’s forces on March 6th said he received subsequent phone calls from Gaddafi’s forces using the his brother’s phone in which they reportedly threatened: “We will burn you along with your family, your mother and siblings.”

As rebel forces seized control of Benghazi and pro-Gaddafi forces retreated, they appear to have seized a number of protesters, including children.  As the conflict deepens, disappearances have continued, in an apparent attempt by Gaddafi’s forces to crush growing opposition.


Live Online Chat On Libya Crisis

Update: Read a transcript of the chat

Join us Friday, March 25th from 1:00-2:00 PM EST for a live online chat on Facebook with Amnesty International on the crisis in Libya.

David Stamps, Libya Country Specialist for Amnesty International USA, will be on hand to provide answers on the escalating situation that thrown the country into turmoil.  Following a United Nations Security Council resolution on March 18th to allow foreign military action against Libya, conflict still rages between al-Gaddafi’s forces, rebels based in Benghazi, and international forces attacking from the air.

To Join The Online Chat
To join the chat go to Facebook on March 25th from 1:00-2:00 PM EST and visit the Amnesty International USA Facebook page. Post your questions directly to our “Wall.”

Chat Rules

  • Please keep your questions on topic.  We welcome all questions relating to the Libya crisis and will try to answer them as they are received.
  • Unrelated questions will be removed from our Wall feed for the duration of the chat.  Thanks for your understanding.
  • Please abide by our Community Guidelines

We look forward to answering your questions!

Q&A: Human rights and war in Libya

Following a United Nations Security Council resolution on 18 March 2011 to allow foreign military action against Libya, conflict still rages between al-Gaddafi’s forces, rebels based in Benghazi, and international forces attacking from the air.  Amnesty International examines some of the human rights issues at stake.

All parties must refrain from targeting civilians © Al Jazeera English

What are the obligations under international law of parties to the conflict in Libya?
There is now an international armed conflict in Libya between coalition forces and the Libyan government.

There is also a non-international armed conflict between the Libyan government and rebel fighters. It is critical that all parties involved in the conflict respect fully international humanitarian law (the laws of war) and applicable human rights law.

All parties must refrain from targeting civilians or civilian objects. They should strictly adhere to the definition of military targets and the prohibition of indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks contained in Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions, which reflect customary international law.


Tensions rise in Benghazi as al-Gaddafi forces mount attacks



By Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International crisis researcher.

Despite the ceasefire Benghazi is still under attack from al-Gaddafi loyalists © Al Jazeera English

The situation has significantly deteriorated in Benghazi and elsewhere in eastern Libya in the past few days. Since yesterday, while Colonel al-Gaddafi’s spokespeople reiterate that their forces are observing a ceasefire, armed al-Gaddafi loyalists – who people identify as members of the lijan thawriya (Revolutionary Committees), groups of loyalists who acted as informers and intelligence gatherers, among other tasks, and were omnipresent in towns and villages all over Libya – have sprung into action in the city, carrying out targeted and indiscriminate armed attacks.

These individuals are seemingly acting in small groups and appear to be composed of al-Gaddafi loyalists who have been keeping a low profile since last month’s takeover of the eastern towns by pro-reform demonstrators (some here refer to these as “sleeper cells”) and who have possibly been joined by other al-Gaddafi loyalists or members of armed forces loyal to al-Gaddafi who entered the towns pretending to be ordinary people.

Such ways of operating are extremely difficult to monitor. Among the victims of such attacks is a family of three – a child and his parents – who were shot in the town on Saturday (19 March). SEE THE REST OF THIS POST