Archive for category Human Rights

An historic communiqué

Official communiqué of the National Transitional Council pledging not to use antipersonnel & antivehicle mines (April 28, 2011) © 2011 Human Rights Watch

28 April 2011

The opposition authority in Libya, the National Transitional Council, has formally pledged not to use antipersonnel and antivehicle landmines. The council also promised to destroy all mines in its forces’ possession.

The pledge was made to Human Rights Watch on April 27, 2011, and in an official communiqué signed on April 28 by Abdulhafeeth Gogha, vice chairman of the National Transitional Council.

The decision marks a historic turning point in political direction of the modern state Libya, a country whose boundaries were set only relatively recently, after WWII.

This decision follows an earlier incident when opposition forces were shown in a BBC news report on April 17 removing plastic anti-vehicle mines from their vehicles and then placing them on the side of the main road into Ajdabiya.  Two witnesses also told told Human Rights Watch that opposition forces had transferred anti-vehicle mines from Benghazi to Misurata, a move that was not authorised by the TNC, according to the field commander of opposition forces in eastern Libya, Gen. Khalifa Hufter and head of the Military Council, Omar Hariri.

“The decision by Libya’s opposition forces to reject landmines is terrific because mines have killed and maimed so many civilians around the world,” said Steve Goose, Arms director at Human Rights Watch. “We urge the National Transitional Council to implement its decision right away, and we call on the Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi to make the same commitment on behalf of civilians in war.”

The communiqué on landmines states that “no forces under the command and control of the NTC will use antipersonnel or anti-vehicle landmines.”   The council pledged to destroy all landmines possessed by forces under its command and control, and to “cooperate in the provision of mine clearance, risk education, and victim assistance.”

Any future Libya government should “relinquish landmines and join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty,” the communiqué said.

(Human Rights Watch)


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The Privatisation of Terror

25 April 2011

A Sky News report strongly suggests that the Libyan government is still arming and training foreign mercenaries at the Army College in Misurata and that it’s “graduates” are among the leading elements of government backed forces attacking the civilian population in that city.

As the news report suggests, the morale of foreign mercenaries appears to be at a very low ebb, with discipline now being enforced at the point of a gun.

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UNOCHA deliberates over EUFOR LIBYA deployment

19 April 2011

Misurata remains under heavy rocket, shell and sniper fire. Independent media report that pro-Ghaddafi forces are unleashing more than 100 rockets a day on what is Libya’s third largest city, and that this has resulted in scores of casualties which include children and the elderly. Human Rights Watch (HRW) have confirmed the use of Spanish made cluster munitions by pro-Ghaddafi forces in Misurata.

Between 15 and 16 April, HRW experts observed at least three MAT-120 mortars exploding over the city, one in a densely populated area only 300 metres from the main hospital. The use of cluster munitions is banned by over 108 countries as part of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Despite heavy shelling, the UNOCHA reports that humanitarian organizations have been able to deliver aid and evacuate people from the port, to safety.

Meanwhile, the office of Baroness Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is working on a plan to deploy a humanitarian military mission (Eufor Libya) to secure better access to and protection of the civilian populations in line with the mandate of resolution 1973 (2011) .

Politically, the decision as to whether this humanitarian force is deployed will have to come from the UN, specifically the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). Thus far, the head of UNOCHA, Valerie Amos has been reluctant to make that decision prior to exhausting all civilian options.

(UNOCHA, The Guardian).

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Civilian population at Misurata under intense bombardment

16 April 0700 (GMT+1) in Misurata

According to a streamed telephone conversation from Misurata, forces loyal to Col. Ghaddafi are preparing to capture the strategic facilities at Qasr Ahmed (the transhipment port of Misurata), much like what was attempted last week in Ajdabya.

Live phone call on Libya Al Hurra stream via the Freedom Group.

Rough translation…

Freedom Group: this is Misurata with you, the sky is black (at) Qasr Ahmed and Zarouk where people Have fled for (some) protection.
Misurata is calling, calling for help!
I swear the sky is black
Indiscriminate shelling, Misurata is calling you!
Many people are being killed
Where is Everyone? I swear Misurata is calling
The shelling began at 6:30 this morning,
More intense that last night
NATO did not help us, did not protect civilians
Sister, I don’t want to increase your burden!
Children, families, are dying
The Mosques are being destroyed
Do they want this to turn into Ajdabiyah?
Everyone is at Qasr Ahmed and Zarouk
Where is the East and the West?
I wish you could hear what I’m hearing
For God’s sakes, help us
People, people listen, people are dying

Perditta: Please, make sure that you are all in a safe place

Freedom Group: There is no solution, what is the solution, what do you want? Everyone is heading for the coast!
Please take this message to the world!
The children are losing their minds, they are all in hospital
Please, we are Muslims, Ben Walid, Zintan, they are sleeping in their houses, the cowards!
Please help us!
I am losing my mind, we are suffering terribly!
Misurata is calling! Please help Misurata! Where is Sarkozy? Where is Obama? NATO is doing nothing!
Families, people are dying
Nobody is protecting us
There is bloodshed on the streets, death is everywhere.
Why is this happening? Why?!
Please help Misrata!!!!
Antiaircraft guns, RPGs (anti-tank rockets) are being used
Are you waiting for the complete destruction of Misrata?
I swear, my sister, yesterday, families, my whole family, two twin girls, a girl, son, and a mother all killed by these Grad rockets, my father is critically injured in hospital
Please, young men are crying, weeping
How can we defend ourselves?
Misrata is drowning in blood
Where is everyone? Where is the East? I am from Benghazi, I didn’t know it was like this, why is this happening? Young Children, youth still in school, learning, are being killed!
Gaddafi is crazy, he is killing people!!!!

Perditta: We are with you, we are praying with you all

Freedom Group: God willing, God help us, God will be with us


Human Rights Watch: Witnesses Attack Into Residential Area

15 April 2011

Remnant of a dual purpose submunition delivered by a MAT-120 cluster munition found in Misrata, Libya. © 2011 Human Rights Watch

(New York) – Government forces loyal to the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, have fired cluster munitions into residential areas in the western city of Misrata, posing a grave risk to civilians, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch observed at least three cluster munitions explode over the el-Shawahda neighborhood in Misrata on the night of April 14, 2011. Researchers inspected the remnants of a cluster submunition and interviewed witnesses to two other apparent cluster munition strikes.

Based on the submunition inspected by Human Rights Watch, first discovered by a reporter from The New York Times, the cluster munition is a Spanish-produced MAT-120 120mm mortar projectile, which opens in mid-air and releases 21 submunitions over a wide area. Upon exploding on contact with an object, each submunition disintegrates into high-velocity fragments to attack people and releases a slug of molten metal to penetrate armored vehicles.

A majority of the world’s nations have comprehensively banned the use of cluster munitions through the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which became binding international law in August 2010. It’s appalling that Libya is using this weapon, especially in a residential area. They pose a huge risk to civilians, both during attacks because of their indiscriminate nature and afterward because of the still-dangerous unexploded duds scattered about.Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch.

“Libya needs to halt the use of these weapons immediately, and take all steps to ensure that civilians are protected from the deadly remnants they have left behind,” Goose said. The area where Human Rights Watch witnessed the use of cluster munitions is about 1 kilometer from the front line between rebels and government forces. The submunitions appear to have landed about 300 meters from Misrata hospital. Human Rights Watch could not inspect the impact sites due to security concerns.

Remnant from the projectile body of a MAT-120 cluster munition found in Misrata, Libya, on April 15, 2011. © 2011 Medical Committee Misurata Hospital

Human Rights Watch has not yet been able to determine if civilians in Misrata have been wounded or killed by cluster munitions.

Human Rights Watch interviewed two ambulance drivers who said they had witnessed cluster strikes prior to April 14.

Ibrahim Abuwayfa told Human Rights Watch that he was in the Al-Gzeer district of Misrata around 7 p.m. on April 13, on the coastal road called Tuarga Street, when he saw an explosion in the air and “little flames” coming down. “One of the objects landed a few meters away on a residential wall and it exploded when it hit and then shrapnel flew out,” Abuwayfa said. Abuwayfa said he had heard of similar attacks that night in the Maghdar and Kurzaz areas of the city.

Waleed Srayti said he saw a cluster munition strike on April 14, at 11 a.m.  “I was in the streets behind the vegetable market,” he said. “A big battle was going on in Tripoli Street at the vegetable market. I heard a noise and about 9 to 10 things started popping out of the sky over the market. I just saw the pops in the air. I saw white smoke coming down. When it went up, I didn’t see anything. It was daylight. I didn’t hear anything when it went up, but I heard the explosion at the top of the arc.”

Cluster munitions can be fired by mortars and artillery or dropped by aircraft. They explode in the air sending dozens, even hundreds, of submunitions or “bomblets” over an area the size of a football field. These submunitions often fail to explode on initial impact, leaving duds that act like landmines.

Based on the markings on the submunition found in Misrata, Libya used MAT-120 cluster munitions. These contain 21 dual-purpose submunitions equipped with a self-destruct feature. The submunition is considered dual-purpose because it has both anti-personnel and anti-material effects.

A remnant base section of a MAT-120 cluster munition indicating its manufacturer, Instalaza SA of Spain. Misrata, Libya, April 15, 2011. © 2011 Human Rights Watch

Upon exploding on impact with an object, the steel body of the MAT-120 submunition disintegrates into numerous high-velocity fragments to attack personnel and releases a metal slug, which is formed from an inverted copper cone inside the submunition, intended to penetrate the walls of an armored vehicle.

The MAT-120 cluster munitions used in Misrata were produced by Instalaza SA in Spain. The markings on the submunition remnant inspected by Human Rights Watch indicate it was produced in 2007.

At the end of 2008, Spain destroyed its stockpile of 1,852 MAT-120 mortar projectiles, containing a total of 38,892 submunitions. Spain signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions on December 3, 2008 and ratified on June 17, 2009.

Libya has not signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The current status and composition of Libya’s stockpile are unknown. Libya used aerial cluster bombs, likely RBK bombs of Soviet/Russian origin, in Chad during the 1980s conflict.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions bans the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of cluster munitions, requires states to destroy stockpiles, clear contaminated land, and assist victims and affected communities. Of the 108 countries that have signed the convention since it opened for signature in December 2008, 56 countries have already ratified.

Libya’s use of the weapon in Misrata is the second known instance of cluster munitions use since the Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force on August 1, 2010. Earlier this month, on April 6, 2011, the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) concluded that Thailand used cluster munitions on Cambodian territory during a border conflict in February 2011.

(Human Rights Watch)

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Attack on civilians in direct contravention of international convention

Screenshot of Instalaza s.a. web site taken at 1215 BST on 16 April 2011 showing MAT-120 still listed as being under production.

Reliable reports in the international press suggest that forces loyal to Col. Ghaddafi has used MAT-120 cluster munitions to disperse civilian populations in Misurata.

The use of cluster munitions was first regulated by the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War (Protocol V to the 1980 Convention), specifically articles 5 and 6, (universally recognised as humanitarian law) and later prohibited by the signatories of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in December 2008 (107 States) in Dublin, Ireland:

Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances to:

(a) Use cluster munitions

(b) Develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly,    cluster munitions

(c) Assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention

(Article 1:  section 1, Convention on Cluster Munitions, Dec 2008)

According to Jane’s, the MAT-120 projectile which is designed and manufactured by Spanish firm Instalaza SA and carries 21 submunitions up to a range of 5,500 to 6,800 m, depending on barrel length. The MAT-120 incorporates a number of safety features that suggest it is compliant to Protocol V to the 1980 Convention standard, but clearly contravenes the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Annex 1:  List of States party to the Geneva Convention and additional Protocols  (ICRC Annual Report 2009)

(Source: The Telegraph, Jane’s 2011, ICRC, Convention on Cluster Munitions)

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UNOCHA LIBYA: Hundreds stranded as Misrata violence continues

Map of City of Misrata. Credit: OCHA Libya Office

Civilians are in grave danger as fighting between Government and opposition forces continues in western Libya. More reports emerged yesterday (Thursday 14th April) of heavy shelling of the port of Misrata, which resulted in several casualties and prevented ships from docking. Several hundred women, children, third-country nationals (TCNs) and asylum-seekers remain stranded in Misrata and require urgent evacuation and resettlement.

An International Organization for Migration (IOM)-chartered ship was able to reach Misrata yesterday evening to deliver humanitarian supplies and evacuate some 600 TCNs to safety. However, the United Nations Refugee Agency and IOM will need more funding to evacuate the approximately 10,000 TCNs in Misrata who wish to leave.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) plans to evacuate up to 1,000 third-country nationals by ship from Misrata today. The ship picked up medical equipment, food and other supplies provided by aid groups in Benghazi yesterday for delivery to Misrata. According to the Libyan Red Crescent, 6,000 third-country nationals are still unable to leave Misrata due to lack of funding as well as continued hostilities between pro-Qaddafi and opposition forces.

In response to the humanitarian crisis, the World Food Programme has distributed food for 136,000 people and Save the Children has trained 19 child protection needs assessors in eastern Libya. However, access to Misrata and other areas and evacuation of TCNs remain primary concerns. The water from the municipal water system in Misrata has been cut off for 45 days forcing the population to use untreated well-water. but, without access, humanitarian actors are unable to determine or address water, sanitation and hygiene needs.

According to the Financial Tracking Services, the $310 million Flash Appeal for the Libyan Crisis is currently only 41 per cent funded.

(UNOCHA, 15th April 2011)

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International Criminal Court investigation in Libya – Review

On March 3, 2011, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) announced he would open an investigation into the situation in Libya. This follows the referral on February 26, 2011 by the United Nations (UN) Security Council—by a vote of 15-0—of the situation in Libya since February 15, 2011 to the ICC prosecutor.

The ICC is a permanent international court with jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Currently, 114 states are parties to the ICC.

It is difficult to predict how long it might be between the beginning of an investigation and the issuance of arrest warrants or summonses. To date, the court’s investigations have lasted between 10 and 20 months before the first arrest warrants have been issued [….] In addition, because the ICC does not have its own police force and must rely on governments and the United Nations to enforce the warrants and effect arrests, some of its warrants have been outstanding for more than five years.

The UN Security Council resolution followed the establishment by the UN Human Rights Council of an international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged human rights violations in the face of reports of escalating violence in Libya. The Arab League, African Union, and the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference condemned the violence. The UN General Assembly suspended Libya’s membership in the UN Human Rights Council as of March 1.

Under the Rome Statute, the ICC’s founding treaty, the UN Security Council can refer a situation in any country (even a non signatory state) to the ICC prosecutor under its Chapter VII mandate if it determines that a situation constitutes a threat to the maintenance of international peace and security.

This is the second time that the the UN Security Council has referred a country to the ICC. In March 2005, the Security Council passed Resolution 1593 to refer the situation in the Darfur region of Sudan. To date, the ICC has issued four arrest warrants, including two for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The ICC has also issued summonses to appear for three rebel leaders on charges related to attacks on an African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur. All three rebel leaders have voluntarily appeared in The Hague, although one case was subsequently dropped for lack of evidence. The targets of the warrants, Al-Bashir, Ahmed Haroun, and Ali Kosheib, a “Janjaweed” militia leader, remain fugitives.

(Human Rights Watch,

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