War Crimes Were Committed By Both Sides In Libya, Finds International Commission Of Inquiry On Libya

Editor’s Note:
There is a shared outrage at this report’s conclusions that may result in a global campaign of protest. I will update when the best course of action is decided.  

The Report.


War crimes were committed by both sides in the war in Libya, according to the latest Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya. The advanced unedited version of the Report, which details the results of an investigation by a three-member commission on human rights and international law violations during the war in Libya, was published on 2 March 2012.

In its Report, the Commission concluded that the Qadhafi forces in Libya committed international crimes, specifically crimes against humanity and war crimes. Acts of murder, enforced disappearance, and torture were perpetrated within the context of a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population. Additional violations included unlawful killing, individual acts of torture and ill treatment, attacks on civilians, and rape.

With regard to the thuwar (anti-Qadhafi forces), the Commission concluded that it had also committed serious violations, including war crimes and breaches of international human rights law. It found that breaches of international human rights law continue to occur in a climate of impunity at the time of the present Report. The Commission found acts of extra-judicial executions, torture, enforced disappearance, indiscriminate attacks and pillage. No investigations have been carried out into any violations committed by the thuwar. According to the Commission, the thuwar are targeting the Tawergha and other communities. The Commission was unable to reach conclusions in relation to the deaths of Muammar and Mutassim Qadhafi, and recommends further investigation.

Significantly, the Report raises questions about North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) attacks that killed and wounded civilians in Libya. NATO’s campaign in Libya had been auhorized by the Security Council through UN Resolution 1973 (2011) for the purpose of protecting Libyan civilians under threat of attack. The Commission’s Report represents the first time that NATO’s actions in Libya have been criticized under the auspices of the United Nations.

According to the Report’s findings, whilst NATO had 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. The Commission investigated 20 NATO airstrikes, and found that in five of them a total of 60 civilians died and 55 were wounded. NATO identified four of the five targets as command-and-control points or troop staging areas, however, the Commission found no physical evidence of this when it visited the sites and witnesses denied that the five places had any military use. The Commission was unable to draw conclusions in such instances on the basis of the information provided by NATO and recommends that the organization carry out its own investigations.

The International Commission of Inquiry on Libya, established by the United Nations Human Rights Council on 25 February 2011, was created to investigate alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya. Three high level experts, Cherif Bassiouni, Asma Khader and Philippe Kirsch were appointed to the Commission, which has a mandate to “to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in Libya, to establish the facts and circumstances of such violations and of the crimes perpetrated and, where possible, to identify those responsible, to make recommendations, in particular, on accountability measures, all with a view to ensuring that those individuals responsible are held accountable”.

The Commission is scheduled to present its Report to the current session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on 9 March 2012.


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