Amnesty Demands Investigation into 'Forgotten Victims' of NATO's Libyan Airstrikes

A Nato air strike in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, last June. (Photograph: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA/Rex Features)

Amnesty Demands Investigation into 'Forgotten Victims' of NATO's Libyan Airstrikes

Human rights group says scores killed by airstrikes may violate international law

When NATO pushed to intervene on behalf of Libyan rebels against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, it did so largely under the guise that by creating a 'no-fly zone' and offering air support to anti-Gaddafi forces, it would protect the lives of innocent Libyan civilians. Now, a year after the first NATO airstrikes took place in Libya, Amnesty International is demanding that the western military coalition take responsibility for the innocent, civilian lives caused by those strikes.

In a new report, Libya: The forgotten victims of NATO Strikes, Amnesty says that scores of Libyan civilians who were not involved in the fighting were killed and many more injured, most in their homes, as a result of NATO airstrikes. Amnesty International said that NATO has not conducted necessary investigations or even tried to establish contact with survivors and relatives of those killed.

"NATO officials repeatedly stressed their commitment to protecting civilians," said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International. "They cannot now brush aside the deaths of scores of civilians with some vague statement of regret without properly investigating these deadly incidents."

The organization said that adequate investigations must be carried out and full reparation provided to victims and their families. Other groups, including from the United Nations, have previously pointed to civilian deaths, but NATO has said it no longer has a 'mandate' to operate in Libya, though it issued a statement saying it 'deeply regretted any harm.'

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Amnesty's Report: Libya: Civilian Deaths from NATO Airstrikes Must Be Properly Investigated:

Investigations must look into whether civilian casualties resulted from violations of international law and if so those responsible must be brought to justice.

Amnesty International has documented 55 cases of named civilians, including 16 children and 14 women, killed in airstrikes in Tripoli, Zlitan, Majer, Sirte and Brega.

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

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From Reuters:

Investigators for the U.N. Human Rights Council concluded earlier this month that NATO had caused civilian deaths but had taken extensive precautions to ensure civilians were not killed.

Amnesty agreed NATO had made significant efforts to minimize the risk of civilian casualties, through precision bombing and warning where strikes would occur.

However, the rights group said that did not absolve NATO from carrying out investigations into any deaths, or making reparations to victims or families of those killed.

Survivors and victims' relatives interviewed by Amnesty said they had never even been contacted by NATO. [...]

NATO's most recent response to Amnesty stated it "deeply regretted any harm" its air strikes had caused but said it no longer had a mandate to carry out any activities in Libya.

Two weeks ago, Russia criticized the U.N. investigators for failing to adequately probe civilian deaths caused by NATO during last year's uprising, saying children and journalists had been killed.

"In our view, during that (NATO) campaign many violations of the standard of international law and human rights were committed, including the most important right, the right to life," said Maria Khodynskaya-Golenishcheva, a diplomat at the Russian mission to the U.N. in Geneva.

Russia had criticized NATO action which it said should have been limited to protecting civilians and not helping the overthrow of Gaddafi.

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