We'll turn our guns on Libyan rebels if they attack civilians, Nato threatens

NTC accused of human rights abuses over killings of Gaddafi supporters and lynchings of black 'mercenaries'

UK and Nato forces would be prepared to turn their guns on their present allies, Libya's rebels, if they attacked civilians loyal to Muammar Gaddafi's regime, British officials stated yesterday.

The warning follows a report by Human Rights Watch accusing the opposition of abusing civilians and calling on the provisional government in Benghazi, the National Transitional Council (NTC), to investigate. One rebel commander said last night: "We object to being threatened by our allies. They are taking part in military action only at our invitation."

Western powers intervened in Libya under UN Resolution 1973, which allows military action to protect the Libyan population. This has, so far, led to prolonged air strikes against regime forces and installations, and Colonel Gaddafi, plus some close to him, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Its chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said there was evidence the Libyan leader ordered the rape of hundreds of women as part of his campaign against rebel forces.

Safeguarding civilians will be a key aspect of the "post-Gaddafi" scenario when the bitter civil war ends. British officials said the NTC will police Tripoli and Sirte, Colonel Gaddafi's birthplace and a loyalist stronghold, at the end of hostilities.

But the rebels have also committed human rights abuses, including the killing of those accused of being regime supporters, and lynching black migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa after claiming they were mercenaries. Human Rights Watch said that as of 28 May the rebels held 330 people.

Yesterday, a British official said: "We will protect civilians by all means necessary while the UN mandate is in force, and that applies to everybody. If the NTC attacks civilians, the mandate would give the international community the grounds to intervene."

Separately, the US Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, last night challenged five Nato allies to contribute more to the campaign in Libya. He singled out Germany and Poland as two countries who were not contributing at all, and said Spain, Turkey and the Netherlands should increase their limited participation. British Apache helicopters and French Gazelle and Tiger helicopters have led recent attacks in Libya, but Barack Obama has declined to put US warplanes back into an offensive role.

* Thousands of troops loyal to Colonel Gaddafi advanced on the rebel-held western city of Misrata yesterday, with renewed shelling killing 10 rebel fighters and injuring 24. In Tripoli, Nato resumed operations after a quiet day, with a loud blast heard in the capital yesterday evening.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?