One year after authorization for the wholesale bombing, rights violations continue
One year ago on March 19, the United States and various NATO countries began a systematic bombing campaign against the oil-producing North African state of Libya. The war supported, trained and armed rebels who carried out attacks on civilians, state and military personnel in various regions of the country.
On March 2, the so-called UN Panel of Experts from the Human Rights Council issued a 200-page report saying in essence that war crimes were committed by both the government led by Col. Muammar Gaddafi and the National Transitional Council (NTC) forces that were put in power by the imperialist states and recognized by the UN. The report began with the premise that the Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 were justified and legitimate and that the Gaddafi administration deserved to be overthrown by the western states and their allies.
According to the report “In emergency session, the Human Rights Council on 25 February 2011 established the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya and gave it the mandate ‘to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya, to establish the facts and identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular, on accountability measures, all with a view to ensuring that those individuals responsible are held accountable.’” (Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya, March 2, 2012, p. 2)
This same report continues saying “international crimes, specifically crimes against humanity and war crimes, were committed by the Gaddafi forces in Libya. Acts of murder, enforced disappearance, and torture were perpetrated within the context of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.”
Yet no mention is made of the long term plans by the United States to overthrow the Gaddafi government extending back at least until the early 1980s. Neither is there any reference to key players within the NTC forces that were trained by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and sent back into the country after the rebel activities began on February 17, 2011.
In an effort to sanitize the role of the imperialist naval blockade, CIA and MI 6 destabilization efforts and the seven months of bombing that resulted in 26,000 sorties and nearly 10,000 airstrikes, the UN report stated that “The Commission concluded that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) conducted a highly precise campaign with a demonstrable determination to avoid civilian casualties. On limited occasions, the Commission confirmed civilian casualties and found targets that showed no evidence of military utility.”
Therefore, the Commission goes on to note that it “was unable to draw conclusions in such instances on the basis of the information provided by NATO and recommends further investigations.” Nonetheless, the nation of Libya was a sovereign member of the UN and the African Union as well as other international organizations and had a right to defend itself from both internal and external threats to its independence.
The Commission also takes for granted that the imperialist states, backed up by the UN, were justified in engineering and ensuring the overthrow of the Libyan government. The Commission provides qualified support for the NTC rebel regime by saying that the new puppet government “expressed a commitment to human rights and has taken positive steps to establish mechanism for accountability.”
Absent of any mandate from the people of Libya or the African Union, the NTC rebel regime is granted the cloak of legitimacy by the Human Rights Council. The Commission report is audacious enough to assert that “The government (NTC) is gradually restoring the judiciary by reopening courts and recalling judges, and there has been some progress in the transfer of detainees to central government control.”
However, on what legal and political basis is the NTC holding detainees, many of whom are Africans from other countries on the continent. How can the Commission report ignore and therefore justify the wholesale theft and destruction of Libyan national assets, including over $160 billion in foreign reserves and a highly lucrative oil and natural gas industry that is now being exploited for the benefit of international finance capital and its allies inside Libya and throughout the region.
There is no demand that the detainees, along with former government officials, be immediately released and paid compensation for their suffering. In addition, there is no mention of the right of all people driven into exile as a result of the war to be allowed to return to Libya without fear of persecution or imprisonment.
Libya War Strengthened NATO and AFRICOM
It was the United States that played the lead role in the war against Libya even before the beginning of the bombing campaign on March 19. The Obama administration had already dispatched CIA personnel into the country to coordinate the rebel attacks and to identify targets to be bombed by NATO.
The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), founded in 2008, played an active role in the war and this operation represented the first of its kind on the continent. The NATO forces were able to maintain some semblance of effectiveness when the capital of Tripoli fell in late August and when Gaddafi and his other top officials were killed in October in Sirte.
Initially the imperialist states believed that the Libyan people would be forced to surrender within a matter of weeks. When formidable resistance continued for eight months the whole purpose of NATO was brought into question even in the western countries.
In 2012 the U.S. has extended its operations in Africa by stepping up the military campaign against the Al-Shabaab Islamic resistance movement in Somalia. In neighboring Djibouti, the U.S. and France maintain a military base which is being utilized throughout the East Africa region.
War games and other threats are being carried out with regularity in Africa. The Obama administration along with Britain and France, are developing and coordinating alliances of various African states that are being coerced into supporting intervention in Somalia as well as preparing to intervene in other countries in West, Central and Southern Africa.
The Continuing Cover-up of the Assassination of Gaddafi
Although the Commission report admitted that there are atrocities still being committed by the NTC regime they attempt to link this to the legacy of the Gaddafi government. Yet there is no specific evidence of any mass killings or other abuse by the Gaddafi government that would have warranted the blanket bombing of the country or the overthrow of the previous state.
Interestingly enough as well the Commission said that it found no evidence of “mercenary forces” being employed by the Gaddafi government, a major accusation made by the NTC rebels and publicized broadly within the corporate media. At the same time no mention was made of the role of Egyptian and Qatari special forces, CIA, MI 6 operatives who worked to overthrow the Libyan government and engaged in war crimes against the population.
Perhaps the most egregious misrepresentation of the developments which took place in Libya during 2011 was the failure of the UN Commission to apportion blame on the U.S.-NATO forces or the NTC rebels for the brutal assassination of Gaddafi and other leading Libyan officials. Gaddafi was captured in Sirte with only minor injuries after a convoy he was riding in had been targeted by NATO war planes.
Just two days prior to the assassination of Gaddafi on October 18, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had visited Tripoli and told the international press that the leader of Libya should be captured or killed. Libyan Col. Mansour Daw, now being held in a prison in Misrata, has confirmed that when Gaddafi had been taken into custody by the NTC rebels on October 20 he was suffering only from minor injuries.
In a report published by the Minneapolis Post it recounts those last moments of the Libyan leader’s life. The report says that “Video footage taken.…show Gaddafi being dragged from the drain and brutalized by a mob of rebel fighters.” (Global Post, March 5)
This same article goes on to point out that “His body arrived later in the city of Misrata along with that of his son Muttassim, but permission to examine the bodies or view the autopsy results was denied to UN representatives and human rights groups. Both bodies were buried by the transitional government in unmarked graves in an unknown location.”
Even with this testimony and video evidence, the UN Commission concluded that there was insufficient proof to hold anyone accountable, not the U.S.-NATO military forces or the NTC rebels, and that there should be further investigation into the assassination of Gaddafi.
In a further effort to whitewash the blatant human rights violations against the Libyan people and its leaders, the United Nations Security Council in a report on February 29 quoted Ian Martin, chief of the UN Support Mission in Libya, as saying “It is clear that the Libyan people are eager to move forward with the transition to democracy, and their most central expectation of the United Nations is that we will support them in doing so.” (Security Council/10563)
Nonetheless, the UN is only moving Libya toward neo-colonial rule that is characterized by economic exploitation and political suppression. Despite all of these efforts to distort the actual history of Libya over the last year the people are resisting the onslaught of imperialist rule and it is they who will write the final chapter in this narrative.