On Saturday 17th September, as reported by Al Jazeera, Ahmed Bani, the interim government’s military spokesman, said gave army personnel still loyal to Gaddafi a last chance to join the ranks of former rebel fighters:
“The soldiers and officers who will not heed this last call will be accused of high treason.”
The invocation of high treason in civil war (“non-international armed conflict”) situations is a highly disreputable manoevre designed to deny any legal obligations to adversaries due under international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977.
It is worth noting the irony given that
- Oran’s Dictionary of the Law (1983) defines treason as “…[a]…citizen’s actions to help a foreign government overthrow, make war against, or seriously injure the [parent nation].”
- It was allegedly the very prospect of the old government using excessive force in suppressing rebellion which motivated the rebellion in the first place.
The dangers of the path being pursued by Ahmed Bani (and his NATO advisors presumably) is that this course of action (and this is well established in the annals of history), tends to lead to a situation where each side:
“sinks into barbarity and tries to outdo each other in the cruelty of their reprisals.” (Bluntschli, Das moderne Völkerrecht der civilisirten Staaten als Rechtsbuch dargestellt, 1868,288, para.512)
The Geneva Conventions
Common Article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 sets minimum standard for the use of civil war opponents:
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
1. Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed ‘’hors de combat” by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:
(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
2. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for.
Given the situation on the ground in Libya, and the certainty of further atrocities if a ceasefire and negotiated solution is not found, and the real danger of genocide against certain tribes, Human Rights Investigations again appeals strongly for an immediate end to the NATO bombing, (which has unfortunately just been extended) a ceasefire and negotiated end to the conflict.