Amnesty criticises Nato over Libyan casualties

Mon, Mar 19, 2012, 00:00

NATO HAS failed to investigate the deaths of scores of civilians killed as result of airstrikes carried out by its forces in Libya last year, Amnesty International has said, echoing criticism contained in a UN report published earlier this month.

The human rights organisation says it has documented 55 cases of named civilians, including 16 children and 14 women, killed in airstrikes in Tripoli and the towns of Zlitan, Majer, Sirte and Brega.

Many of the deaths occurred as a result of airstrikes on private homes. Amnesty said it had found no evidence to indicate that the homes had been used for military purposes at the time they were attacked.

Nato had not conducted necessary investigations or even tried to establish contact with survivors and relatives of those killed, Amnesty said.

“More than four months since the end of the military campaign,” said Colm O’Gorman, director of Amnesty’s Ireland branch, “victims and relatives of those killed by Nato remain in the dark about what happened and who was responsible. Nato officials repeatedly stressed their commitment to protecting civilians.

“They cannot now brush aside the deaths of scores of civilians with some vague statement of regret without properly investigating these deadly incidents.”

Amnesty said Nato, in its most recent communication to the human rights organisation on March 13th, stated that it “deeply regrets any harm that may have been caused by those air strikes” but “has had no mandate to conduct any activities in Libya following OUP’s (Operation Unified Protector) termination on October 31st, 2011”, and that the “primary responsibility” for investigating rested with the Libyan authorities.

Mr O’Gorman said this was “absolutely unacceptable” and he accused Nato of refusing to take responsibility for its actions. “It leaves victims and their families feeling that they have been forgotten and denied basic justice.”

Earlier this month a report by a commission appointed by the UN Human Rights Council raised similar questions over Nato attacks that had resulted in the deaths of civilians. That report represented the first time that Nato’s actions in Libya had faced criticism under the auspices of the UN, where the Nato-led military intervention in the name of protecting civilians was authorised by the Security Council last March.

The commission concluded that Nato had sought to avoid civilian casualties in “a highly precise campaign” involving thousands of attack sorties.

It noted, however, that in a few cases it had “confirmed civilian casualties and found targets that showed no evidence” of any military function.

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Two British journalists detained by a Libyan militia last month and accused of spying have been released and cleared of all charges, an interior ministry official said yesterday.

Nicholas Davies-Jones and Gareth Montgomery-Johnson, who were working for Iran’s English-language Press TV, were detained on February 22nd by the Swehli brigade, one of dozens of militias which last year helped force out Libyan leader Muammar Gadafy.