Nato accused of war crimes in Libya

New report criticises Western forces for bombing civilian targets in Sirte during conflict

An independent report published by Middle Eastern human rights groups says there is evidence that war crimes and human rights violations were committed by all the participants – Nato, rebel forces and those loyal to Colonel Gaddafi – in last year's Libyan uprising.

The report, published today by the Arab Organisation for Human Rights together and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights with the International Legal Assistance Consortium, follows extensive fact-finding work carried out by law and war crimes experts. While the document stresses that findings are not conclusive, it adds weight to growing concerns about violations committed by all sides in the conflict.

After interviews with eye-witnesses and victims of attacks, and after visiting areas targeted by Nato, the Independent Civil Society Mission to Libya report highlights the issue of Nato classifying some civilian sites as military targets during its operations.

Nato was authorised by the UN Security Council to protect civilians in Libya from attacks by the Gaddafi regime during the uprising of last year, but drew criticism for what many described as going further than the terms of the mandate.

Raji Sourani, the head of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights who took part in the Libya mission, said: "We are not making judgements – that is not the mission mandate. But we have reason to think that there were some war crimes perpetrated.

"We are asking questions, especially about what happened in Sirte," referring to Nato strikes in that city last September, when 47 civilians were killed. Eye-witnesses in the city told report investigators that civilians converged at the site of Nato strikes on two trucks, and were subsequently killed by a third missile.

Whether or not this amounts to a war crime, the revelation, if proved, will serve as an embarrassment to the Alliance, which stressed its efforts to avoid civilian deaths. Separately, the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said last November that Nato forces would be investigated along with the two Libyan sides of the conflict for breaches of the laws of war.

Late last year, Nato's Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said: "We have carried out this operation very carefully, without confirmed civilian casualties."

A Nato official said yesterday that, despite the Alliance's best efforts – including the cancellation of two-thirds of intended strikes because of the risk of casualties – its "goal of zero civilian casualties is highly unlikely".

The official added: "Nato is working closely with the UN and with Libyan counterparts – they are the best place to have these concerns looked at and we have already started to provide information to help with that. If anyone else presents these concerns to us, we will do the same. We would like the opportunity to work with them and go through our data, to see if that can help allay concerns and determine what actually did happen."

Today's report observes that establishing what happened in Nato strikes in Libya was potentially hindered by the "apparent desire" among those interviewed on the ground "to protect Nato, or avoid any direct or indirect criticism".

The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, last year rejected claims that Nato had exceeded its mandate in Libya: "Security Council resolution 1973, I believe, was strictly enforced within the limit, within the mandate," he said.

The investigation also set out to probe alleged violations committed by former opposition forces allied to the National Transitional Council. As well as evidence of killing, torturing, detention and ill-treatment of individuals who may have been loyal to the former regime, the mission examines the forced displacement of suspected "enemies of the revolution" – especially in Tawergha.

Reports described Tawergha, near Misrata, as a "ghost town" – 30,000 residents had been driven out of their homes in what looked like an act of revenge and collective punishment carried out by anti-Gaddafi fighters.

Addressing such violations, the report quotes a senior military commander in Tripoli, who says: "What I fear most now are the revolutionaries themselves." The group's plan to follow up today's report with similar investigations in Syria and Yemen.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'