Britain has no way of knowing how many civilians died in the Libyan conflict as a result of Nato bombing, a group of MPs has admitted.
The defence select committee issued its findings after an inquiry into operations in Libya that led to the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Committee members heard evidence from several witnesses, including former defence secretary Liam Fox and Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, chief of air staff.
“We accept that the coalition forces did their best to prevent and minimise civilian casualties and we commend them for this approach,” the MPs said in their report.
“Nonetheless, it is at least possible that some civilian casualties were caused by coalition actions. In the absence of observers on the ground it is impossible to say whether, despite the best efforts of coalition forces, any civilian casualties were caused by coalition action and if so how many.”
Anti-war campaigners were highly critical of the report.
“This is typical of the British defence establishment and also, more broadly, the US and Nato’s attitude to civilian casualties in wars they start,” said Chris Nineham, spokesman for the Stop the War Coalition.
“They are not interested.”
Nineham said violence dramatically increased as a result of Nato’s intervention in the country.
“Clearly, what happened is the direct opposite of what they claimed. Their intervention increased the level of killing and led to tens of thousands of people dying,” he said.
“If they told the truth, they would never be able to fight another war, because the truth directly contradicts everything they say about these wars and would condemn their actions beyond any kind of repair.”