Nato 'underplayed civilian deaths in Libya'

2012-05-14 07:46

Brussels - Nato air strikes killed 72 civilians in Libya last year, Human Rights Watch said on Monday, accusing the western alliance of failing to acknowledge the scope of collateral damage it caused during the campaign that helped oust Muammar Gaddafi.

In a report based on investigations at bombing sites during and after the conflict, the New York-based HRW said Nato strikes killed 20 women and 24 children. It called on the alliance to compensate civilian victims and investigate attacks that may have been unlawful.

"Attacks are allowed only on military targets, and serious questions remain in some incidents about what exactly Nato forces were striking," Fred Abrahams, special adviser at HRW, said in a statement.

The report claims to be the most extensive investigation to date of civilian casualties from Nato's air campaign and presents a higher death toll estimate than a March paper by Amnesty International which documented 55 civilian deaths, including 16 children and 14 women.

Nato considers its Libya operation highly successful, illustrating the allies' ability to work well together in a limited campaign. Nato carried out about 26 000 sorties including some 9 600 strike missions and destroyed about 5 900 targets before operations ended on 31 October.

The alliance said the campaign had been conducted with "unprecedented care and precision and to a standard exceeding that required by international humanitarian law".

"Nato did everything possible to minimise risks to civilians, but in a complex military campaign, that risk can never be zero," said Nato spokesperson Oana Lungescu in a statement.

"We deeply regret any instance of civilian casualties for which Nato may have been responsible."

Future operations

HRW acknowledged that Nato had taken care to minimise civilian casualties and added that countries such as Russia that had made claims of large-scale civilian deaths did so "to score political points".

But Abrahams, principal author of the report, said the care Nato took during the campaign was "undermined by its refusal to examine the dozens of civilian deaths."

Concerns about civilian deaths in Libya could hamper Nato's ability to carry out future operations outside the territory of its members, in North America and Europe.

Although Russia co-sponsored the UN resolution authorising intervention in Libya, it later said Nato had "grossly violated" its mandate. This was a factor earlier this year when Russia opposed a UN resolution calling for action to stop the violence in Syria.

HRW highlighted an attack on the village of Majer, 160km east of Tripoli on 08 August, when Nato air strikes on two family compounds killed 34 civilians and wounded more than 30.

HRW said Nato had told it that the Majer compounds were a "staging base and military accommodation" for Gaddafi forces, but had not provided specific information to support that claim.

"During four visits to Majer, including one the day after the attack, the only possible evidence of a military presence found by Human Rights Watch was a single military-style shirt - common clothing for many Libyans - in the rubble of one of the three destroyed houses," it said.

Nato said it had now looked into each credible allegation of harm to civilians and confirmed that the targets struck "were legitimate military targets, selected in a manner consistent with the UN mandate".

  • Shaun - 2012-05-14 08:31

    I wish they would investigate the total amount of civilians murdered by international forces randomly bombing countries like Iraq, Afhganistan, Libya, etc. To think how many innocent Fathers, Mothers and children are killed in the name of "freedom"? I wonder what an intelligent Alien species visiting us from another Planet would think of countries who perceive themselves as the "good guys"? To think we people of the Western World claim to be better than the terrorists which we are apparently fighting against? I think not...

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-14 17:43

      We're not "better-than" in the arrogant Negative Ego sense. But we certainly do not target civilians, as the terrorists do. We go to great lengths to avoid civilian harm, and only use military force when absolutely necessary. It's important to differentiate intentions too. The Jihadists and unelected dictators oppress their populations and seek to take the world backwards, resisting positive changes that increase individual and human rights. They use terror to do this: car bombs and suicide attacks in public places. That's why they're called terrorists. Without this differentiate you'll arrive at the wrong conclusion, as you have done.

      Shaun - 2012-05-14 18:09

      So killing innocent people in the name of "freedom" is totally justified? In all honesty I do not see the difference between the guys dropping the bombs from a thousand meters in the air to the guys who strap bombs to themselves. Thats just my opinion though.

  • Tebogo - 2012-05-14 08:40

    Now these are the real criminals who must go to the International Criminal Court.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-05-14 09:00

      Tebogo, It is very doubtful, that the 1.5 million Libyans, who have in the last few weeks registered for the upcoming elections, would agree with you !!! 72 deaths is 72 too many, but in this civil war between 20 000 and 30 000 , Lybians were killed. When the Libyans asked for help, Africa, as usual, looked the other way. If the AU and most African leaders would have taken the side of the Libyan population, and not that of a psychopathic criminal thug, most of these 20 to 30 000 lives could have been saved, including, these 72 civilians. It is hard to swallow for many in Africa, but by far the majority of Libyans , are grateful to Europe and its NATO !!!!!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-14 17:44

      What an absurd, uninformed idea.

  • Rashida Patel - 2012-05-14 09:06

    Sadly there is no difference in nato and the usa . Unfortunately only the murderers of africa are prosecuted

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-14 17:46

      More uninformed conclusions from you Rashida. Nato's second-largest member nation is Turkey, a country of 73 million Muslims. The US played a very small role in Nato's UN sanctioned intervention in Libya. This intervention targeted the mad dictator Moamar Gaddafi's military resources that he was using to slaughter and terrorize the Libyan people, and destroy Libya all in an attempt to hold onto power.

  • Diana - 2012-05-14 09:09

    Why everyone has just dropped a case about Gaddafi's killing? Never mind himself being a tyrant but the way he's been murdered gives you an idea that someone didnt want him to stand a trial and open his mouth.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-05-14 11:28

      Diana, It gives more of the idea, of the pure hatred the Libyans had for this criminal. The same happened to Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu...... As soon as the people knew he and his ever so violent family, were no longer a threat to them, they wanted revenge ! Right or wrong....but this what happened !! And the 2.3 million of Libyans, who "loved" their leader and came out in "support" of him in Tripoli's Green Square, only weeks before; WITHIN HOURS, EVAPORATED INTO HOT AIR..............!!!!!

      Sydney - 2012-05-14 11:41

      AnthonyfromAfrica: ELECTION CANDIDATE MURDERED IN SOUTH LIBYA what do you have to say about it? you idiot...

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-05-14 11:51

      Sydney, Unfortunately, after 41 years of tyranny , there is still a certain instability in Libya. This gaddafi thug, destroyed just about everything to make a nation function; i.e. the security forces and the judiciary ( both of which were there to keep an illigitimate regime in place and to protect a corrupt and murderous family !!!) May I also remind you that even after 18 years of peace in SA, there are still politicians being murdered, especially in KZN !!!!!! Regards from your 'idiot"

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-14 18:52

      Unfortunately the narcissistic, self-serving, unelected dictator will always be a hero to you Patrick.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-05-14 19:22

      Patrick, Well, how unfortunate for you, but very shortly, both Egypt and Libya, will be going to the polls to vote who THEY want in their government. It must be a bitter pill for you to swallow !!!! But the Egyptians and Libyans could not give a damn, for the few in the world, who support TYRANNY and TERRORISM. They are busy building their countries up, in Libya's case, from scratch, as this terrorist gaddafi destroyed just about EVERYTHING !!! They must be getting soo sick and tired with this BS coming out of Africa. No doubt, if they would have a referandum both in Egypt and Libya, if they pefer to be part of Africa or Europe, 90 % will vote for the latter !!!!!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-05-14 20:02

      What are you on about....Greece...why not Pakistan or Indonesia ???? You don't know what to say any more, It is just garbage !!

      Diana - 2012-05-14 20:22

      @Anthony fred: you guys will never convince me there wasn't anything covert in how Gaddafi has been taken out. Why they have dressed Gbagbo as a militant in order to protect him from enraged crowd when walking him out of his stinky basement? Maybe he was any better to ivorians than mr. colonel to his citizens (by the way why nothing heard of Gbagbo's trial either, nothing interesting in his person for the greedy westerns or what?) Tribal wars still going on in the land of lybian paradise and looks like even more people loosing their lives than it had happened under Gaddafi.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-05-14 21:05

      Diana, There happens to be cell phone video and photo's, how some enraged Libyans found gaddafi hiding in a sewerage pipe. After they took him out, these murderers killed him.! But, the fact is, that according to the immediate celebrations all over Libya, not many Libyans had a problem with that !!!! Gbagbo "dressed up as militant", sorry I don't know what you are talking about! And, yes, must agree, these ICC cases take an unbelievable long time . Charles Taylor's trial, is just winding up, ....6 years after his arrest !! More deaths in Libya now, than under gaddafi ! That is doubtful....but somehow I read in your message that you are not happy that after 41 years of tyranny, the Libyans got rid of this corrupt, evil, violent gaddafi family . Well, be assured the Libyans are. AND THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS !!

      Diana - 2012-05-15 09:25

      @Anthony i do not have so much credibility with BBC and Sky news which are pounding with joy describing life of happy lybians , to tell the truth about life over there is to admit united forces of NATO and France had failed their mission and brought country into chaos and disorder. I do not know Gaddafi personally and only can judge him coming out of media reports. But while his was at power there were no fights over the oil-rich territories. Working immigrants who started fleeing lybia since the conflict took off never used to complain about poor working conditions and low salaries while nothing held them from telling the truth since they had left the country. By the way where are all the big money from colonel's acc which supposed to be given to lybians after his death, isnt it just fair to return what obviously doesnt belong to you? Only a small portion was handed over to the new formed council which is far from enough to rebuild the country. P.S. You're very well informed about Gaddafi being dragged out of a sewage pipe so u-tube Gbagbo's capture i am sure they have his video getting dressed in military uniform and taken out of his rathole with a big pomp.

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-15 22:39

      It's 100% true for you Patrick. You have no authority to speak for anyone but yourself.

  • fred.fraser.12 - 2012-05-16 04:36

    While one civilian death is one too many, especially a child's death, it's truly amazing that all those air strikes caused the deaths of just 72 people. Clearly the freer world's policy of targeting only military installations and resources is getting better and better. Contrast this with Moamar Gaddafi's mad killing of thousands of people, his detention, torture and tape of tens of thousands more. And Assad's even worse actions, coupled with the destruction of large parts of Syria. Which would I rather have? The answer is obvious.

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