Archives For Cluster munitions

Under pressure from ongoing investigations by Human Rights Investigations, Patria, the Finnish arms company, have released a  press release this morning (7th July 2011):

Patria’s mortar systems have not been used to fire cluster ammunition in Libya
During the last weeks Patria has been increasingly contacted about the possibility that Patria’s Nemo 120 mm mortar system or Patria Hägglunds’ AMOS 120 mm mortar system would have been used in Misurata, Libya to fire 120 mm cluster ammunition (MAT-120) produced by a Spanish company Instalaza S.A. Patria strongly rejects this possibility. None of AMOS or Nemo mortar systems are in use of the parties in Libya. And Patria does not develop, produce or sell cluster ammunition products.

The suspicion has likely been created by a misinterpretation of publicly available information. A small quantity (305pcs live plus 230 pcs of inert ammuntitions) of MAT-120 rounds were imported to Finland in 2005-2007 for for the program for the Finnish Defence Forces. Patria and the Finnish Defence Forces terminated that program in 2009.

The left-over ammunitions (136 pcs live) are owned and stored by the Finnish Defence Forces. No MAT-120 ammunition imported by Patria has been exported out from Finland.

Patria Hägglunds has a licensing agreement with a US company, AAI Corporation, concerning AMOS. However, under this agreement, no AMOS mortar systems have been produced by AAI. The export of Patria Hägglunds know-how or components related to AMOS are also under the Finnish export control mechanisms.

HRI will be responding in detail in due course.

In the meantime, we request the company answer the detailed questions they have been asked and the additional question: How could Patria possibly know that none of the NEMO or AMOS systems are in use with the parties in the Libyan conflict?

 

Last week CJ Chivers introduced us to the “short stub case.” His argument was that to be used in a breech-loaded mortar system (such as the AMOS or NEMO) a ‘short stub case’ is needed. Since no short stub cases were found in Misrata a breech-loaded system couldn’t have fired the shells.

The trouble with this argument is explained in a recent patent application by BAE Systems:

When stub case weapon systems are fired, the stub case separates from the round. Thereafter, the stub case must be removed from the breech. Because of the relatively high temperatures generated during the firing process, there are also issues relating to disposal of the hot stub case in a safe manner.

So the stub case is ejected in a burst of hot air and doesn’t travel to its target…

Under pressure from a Human Rights Investigations probe into cluster bombs, the usually secretive Spanish government has released some limited information regarding their exports of cluster bombs.

Spanish government information shows 2,271 MAT-120s were stockpiled on 2 December 2008 and 1,852 were destroyed by the end of 2008 with 419 retained.

Latest Spanish Government Claims

According to US ex-marine CJ Chivers, writing in The New York Times, Ramon Muro Martinez, Spain’s Deputy Director General for Foreign Trade of Defence Materials and Dual Use Goods has claimed that:

“No Spanish cluster munitions have been exported to the United States.”

No documents to prove the statement have been produced as yet and Mr Chivers has not yet divulged the full texts of the emails. The Spanish government refuses to reveal details of the role of Naval Station Rota and has failed to respond to the questions posed by HRI directly and in “Spanish Bombs in Andalucia.”

HRI has called for the release of details of all exports of cluster munitions by Spain – as well as the details of transfers of munitions to US Naval Station Rota.

On 8th June, according to CJ Chivers, Ramon Muro Martinez also claimed:

“One license to Lybia consisting of 5 cluster munitions for demonstration was issued in August 2006. The export took place in October 2006. There were two more licenses issued in December 2007 with a total amount of 1,050 cluster munitions. They were sent in March 2008.”

“All the licenses were submitted to a special scrutiny and the exports took place before the approval of a moratorium decided by the Spanish Government on the 11th July 2008 and the signature of the Oslo Convention on the 3rd December 2008.”

In a follow-up e-mail on the same day, Snr Martinez apparently confirmed that the cluster munitions were the MAT-120 rounds manufactured by Instalaza SA.

Another ministry official, Ana Terreros Gomez, according to Chivers, claimed the government of Libya had submitted an end-user certificate, or EUC, for MAT-120 rounds to the government of Spain.

“EUC issued by the Libya authorites was authenticated by the Spanish Embassy in Tripoli November 28th 2007.”

Joan Clos i Matheu, former Spanish Industry Minister

Joan Clos i Matheu was Spain’s Industry Minister September 2006 – July 2008, and has now moved on to be Under Secretary General of the United Nations.

Destruction of the Stockpile

According to a letter from the Spanish Foreign Minister on Cluster Munitions a 4.9 million euros contract was signed with Fabricaciones Extremeňas SA (FAEX), of the Maxam Industrial Group to dismantle and destroy the stockpile of cluster muniitons.

The Maxam Group is the owner of Expal (aka as the “Living Death”) who we have mentioned before in relation to their manufacture of cluster bombs and land mines and appears close to current Spanish Industry Minister, who was seen on 13 April 2011 in Beijing lobbying the Chinese government on their behalf.

Table of Spanish cluster munition destruction and retention:

Stockpiled on
2 December 2008
Destroyed by31 December 2008 Destroyed by18 March 2009 Retained
120mm mortar projectile ESPIN-21
(contains 21 submunitions)
2,340
(49,140)
1,950
(40,950)
390
(8,190)
120mm mortar projectile MAT-120
(contains 21 submunitions)
2,271
(47,691)
1,852
(38,892)
419
(8,799)
CBU-100 Rockeye bomb
(contains 247 submunitions)
545
(134,615)
537
(132,639)
8
(1,976)
CBU-99B Rockeye bomb
(contains 247 submunitions)
38
(9,386)
38
(9,386)
BME-330 B/AP bomb
(contains 28 submunitions)
393
(11,004)
385
(10,780)
8
(264)1
Total munitions
(submunition total)
5,587
(251,836)
4,377
(221,867)
385
(10,780)
863
(19,229)

1 Spain will retain an additional 40 SNA submunitions from two BME-330B/AP bombs.


The New York Times have published unsupported allegations that this blog is being funded by Qaddafi.

The allegation was made in a 3800 word article regarding the ongoing HRI investigation into the facts around the bombing of Misrata, the arms trade and the involvement of US and Spanish officials.

On 23rd April 2011 the New York Times published the allegation by “several readers” that HRI:

“is a Qaddafi-backed site, a Qaddafi mouthpiece or even a flat-out hoax, another Gay Girl in Damascus.”

The author of the article, ex-marine CJ Chivers (who regularly reports on military and intelligence affairs for the NYT) went on to admit that:

“I have not looked into these things, and have no evidence that HRI is any of these things”

Contacted by HRI, the office of the public editor of the New York Times, refused to remove the article or answer the question as to whether the NYT considered it ethical to publish allegations, for which even the author admitted there was no evidence. The publisher of the NYT, Arthur Sulzberger, has refused to comment.

There are a number of factual errors in the article, as will become clear as we release more information about the facts regarding the cluster bombing of Misrata and about the HRI investigation.

Updated 20 July

The issue of the short stub case, which was pretty central to the NYT article’s allegations against HRI is tackled here.

The issue of the Spanish government’s transparency regarding cluster munitions is dealt with here and here.

Mr Hiznay has failed to provide a copy of his memorandum.

More information to come.

As regular readers will know, HRI has been investigating the sordid world of the Spanish cluster bomb industry. Now Spanish officials (not known for releasing specific information about arms exports) have reportedly claimed the cluster bombs found in Misrata, (type MAT-120 made by Instalaza) were never exported to the USA.

However, they refuse to provide the actual evidence, documents, licenses, end-user certificates and so forth and are not letting anyone know where all the missing cluster bombs have actually gone.

Where are these bombs, produced by Expal Explosivos, now?

The Spanish government officials face something of a credibility deficit, after decades of hiding the truth from the public, so it is best not to give too much credence to what they say. Nevertheless, we have already explored some of the issues around Spanish bombs and new information sheds light on the claim that no cluster bombs were exported to the USA.

In Andalucia, close to El Puerto de Santa Maria, is a facility known as US Naval Station Rota. The people of the locality have been coming out to march for peace and against the base for the past 23 years:

NATO no - Andalucia against the base!

Naval Station Rota is an important supply base for the Americans, described by them as the “Gateway to the Mediterranean.” US Navy ships use Rota for all kinds of naval supplies, including bombs and ammunition.

According to Wikipedia:

The Naval Station is the only base in the Mediterranean capable of supporting Amphibious Readiness Group post-deployment wash-downs.

USS Ponce (pronounced pon-say) stopped off at Naval Station Rota, following her deployment off the coast of Libya, following the bombing of Misrata, following the sacking of her Captain Etta Jones and First Officer Kurt Boesnich and before making the trip back across the Atlantic.

Landing craft docking inside amphibious assault ship USS Ponce

The US Navy is the tenant of a 21 sq km section of the 24 sq km base, but the base is used jointly by Spain and the United States. It remains under the Spanish flag and is commanded by a Vice-Admiral of the Spanish Armada. Until recently the commander of the US section of the base was a Captain William Mosk.

NAVSTA Rota is technically a tenant of the Rota Spanish Armada base, although no rent is paid. So if Instalaza and Expal’s bombs were delivered to Rota, it seems quite possible that government officials would consider it within their rights to claim the weapons were never exported to the USA.

So, was the use of cluster munitions in Misrata perhaps an operation with a dual purpose? To help win Misrata for the rebels, using weapons favoured by the US military, which could simultaneously be blamed on Libyan loyalist forces? It would be tempting for a coalition commander or psychological operations unit, particularly with a stockpile of suitable weapons so close at hand. We have already seen the importance that Admiral Stavridis places on the information war and governing the internet.

On the other hand, is it possible that the Libyan army or rebels used these weapons?

Or perhaps it was all just a mistake – with the shortage of ammunition perhaps these rounds, having lain in storage for years, were brought into action without any thought for the political consequences. Perhaps those immediately responsible were sacked in the aftermath, on various pretexts; but given a supine and pro-war media the powers that be decided they could get away with covering up the whole business up?

One thing we can be absolutely sure of is that Richard Kidd, Director of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, U.S. Department of State, wrote in “Is There a Strategy for Responsible U.S. Engagement on Cluster Munitions?” April 28, 2008:

“Cluster munitions are available for use by every combat aircraft in the U.S. inventory, they are integral to every Army or Marine maneuver element and in some cases constitute up to 50 percent of tactical indirect fire support.”

Also we have seen a number of high profile sackings of US Navy officers a few days after the bombing of Misrata, including the captain and first officer of the USS Ponce on April 23rd.

In addition we also find in Stars and Stripes that on 18th April 2011:

The commander of the U.S. Navy base in Rota, Spain, has been relieved of command after Navy leadership lost confidence in him to “effectively handle issues surrounding an ongoing investigation under his authority,” a Navy spokesman said Tuesday.

Rear Adm. Tony Gaiani on Monday relieved Capt. William Mosk as skipper of Naval Station Rota, where he has been commander since June 2008, said Lt. Cmdr. David Benham, a spokesman for Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia.

Benham declined to provide any information about the ongoing investigation, being led by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The Human Rights Investigations (HRI) probe into the actual facts continues, notwithstanding the propaganda pumped out by governments and the media. Unlike others, who have jumped to conclusions on the basis of emotion, HRI continues to question, to discover more evidence and bring that to our readers attention so they can make up their own minds.

Little is known about the secretive (and now largely outsourced) Spanish cluster bomb industry – until its products turn up in foreign lands.

Spain has signed up to, but not yet implemented into domestic legislation, the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It is time Spain implemented the legislation and also provided full transparency about its past activities, in order to prevent further use of Spanish cluster bombs.

The Spanish government and cluster bombs

The Spanish government ceased issuing any export licences for cluster munitions on 11 June 2008. They declared their stocks of cluster munitions on 2 December 2008 including 2,271 MAT-120s – all of which they have declared to have been destroyed (1852) or retained for training purposes (419).*

Snr Miguel Sebastian, the current industry minister, should make full disclosure as to where all the cluster munitions produced in Spain have gone.

Miguel Sebastian, of course was, earlier in his career, Assistant Director-General of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya (BBV) and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria(BBVA).

BBVA has been singled out for criticism by human rights and citizens groups for its human rights record and for its links with the arms industry.

BBVA was also criticised by Pax Christi for having no rules banning it from transactions linked to cluster bombs.

Spanish Industry Minister Miguel Sebastian - previously Assistant Director-General of BBV and BBVA banks. BBVA has been especially active in the arms business and slammed for its links to cluster munition manufacture.

Miguel Sebastian: Spanish Banker and Industry Minister

The Spanish government now needs to confirm:

1) What happened to the machinery for making cluster bombs owned by Instalaza and Expal. Are companies in other countries now making variants of these Spanish bombs?

2) Full details of all exports of all cluster munitions

3) To explain why they made these exports

4) To explain why the information about the recipients of cluster bombs has been covered up in the past

Instalaza

Spanish media reports indicate that Instalaza have denied selling the MAT-120 weapons to Libya. When HRI contacted Instalaza, on a number of occasions, they were surprisingly reluctant to discuss their products.

On top of that, munitions found in Misrata in April 2011, dated 2007 (batches 02/07 and 03/07) look remarkably similar to products from the Instalaza company.

Regarding exports of cluster munions to Libya, the Spanish Export Statistics regarding Defence Material, Other Material and Dual-Use Items and Technologies, 2007 on page 51 in the table of Authorised exports of Defence Material by Country 2007 shows 3 licenses were issued by Spain to a value of 3,823,500 Euros.

On page 53 in the table of Authorised Exports of Defence Material by Country and Article 2007 we see these exports are in category 4, which includes cluster bombs and missiles.

In Spanish Export Statistics regarding Defence Material, Other Material and Dual-Use Items and Technologies, 2008 on page 56 in the table of Exports of Defence Material Completed, 2008 we see actual exports were made valued at 3,839,210 Euros.

Below is an extract from the Spanish National Report on Exports of 2007 showing the way different items are categorised:

DESCRIPTION OF THE 22 ARTICLES FIGURING ON THE LIST OF DEFENCE MATERIAL (ROYAL DECREE 1782/2004 OF 30 JULY

2 Smooth-bore weapons with a calibre of 20 mm or more:
Firearms (including pieces of artillery), rifles, howitzers, cannons, mortars, anti-tank weapons, projectile launchers, flame throwers, recoilless rifles, signature reduction devices, military smoke, gas and pyrotechnic projectors or generators and weapons sights.

3 Ammunition, devices and components
Ammunition for the weapons subject to control by articles 1, 2 or 12. Fusesetting devices including cases, links, bands, power supplies with high operational output, sensors, submunitions

4 Bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles
Bombs, torpedoes, grenades, smoke canisters, rockets, mines, missiles, depth charges, demolition charges, “pyrotechnic” devices, cartridges and simulators, smoke grenades, incendiary bombs, missile rocket nozzles and re-entry vehicle nosetips.

These categories, used in the Spanish Report, are in line with those of the Common Military List of the European Union.

Reading the Spanish government reports there is absolutely no mention of supplying cluster munitions to Libya and close analysis of the text even suggests they couldn’t have – so why the cover-up?

Expal Explosivos

Alaveses Explosives, Inc. (EXPAL) is a dedicated solely to military equipment manufacturing sub-munitions and explosives. It produces all sorts of projectiles, fuses, shells and bombs.

As Pere Ortega explains in his article on “The Living Death EXPAL” this company has exported arms to Israel (who infamously fired over a million cluster bomblets into Lebanon), Mauritania and Angola.

EXPAL land mines infest the Western Sahara and Colombia and Saddam Hussein’s mustard gas bombs in the Iran-Iraq war were housed in EXPAL casings.

Anti-mine campaigner

Bombs of EXPAL

The BME 330 AT (anti-tank) bomb is one of a family of three air-launched cluster bombs that was been developed by Expal for use by the Spanish Air Force and for export purposes.

The other two were the BME 330 AR (anti-runway) bomb and the BME 330 C (multipurpose) bomb.

It is unknown where these were sold.

 
This picture shows Spanish made cluster bombs which are dropped from the air – where did these go?

In June 2006, EXPAL appointed as president Francisco Torrente, a former admiral of the Spanish Navy, who only months before had held the post of Secretary General for Defence Policy. Following this move EXPAL contracts with the Ministry of Defense improved remarkably, winning several contracts, including one for the destruction of the 5 600 cluster bombs in possession of the Spanish armed forces, many of which it had produced itself.

EXPAL is part of the EXPAL MaxamCorp, formerly Spanish Union of Explosives (UEE) which comprises six companies in Spain dedicated to the manufacture of all types of explosives. Maxam is a multinational with presence in many countries the current owners including Bank Santander.

EXPAL has signed a partnership agreement with Brazilian explosive and arms company Imbel.

In the story of EXPAL and Instalaza we see the familiar story of close links between the government, banks and the arms industry and the outsourcing of production to states with lower standards of regulation.

*Update 3rd July 2011 based on the text of the letter of the Spanish Foreign Minister Annex II describing numbers and date of cluster bomb stockpiles on 2 December 2011.

CJ Chivers of the New York Times and to a very limited extent Human Rights Watch (HRW) are now seriously engaging with the Human Rights Investigations probe into the cluster bombing of Misrata.

The first indication from HRW (after weeks of trying to elicit a direct response) was a tweet from the Mary Wareham:

In fact, the case against Gaddafi’s forces is not proven.

The Spanish government should release details of all licenses ever issued and actual exports for cluster bombs and munitions and the machinery to make them.

The export of cluster munitions and bombs is now illegal in Spain (although not incorporated into domestic legisalation) – the Spanish government should release details of all such exports in the past to prevent their use in the future.

HRI has been pressing for this and urges HRW to do likewise.

CJ Chiver’s follow-up article in the New York Times today provides a lot of color to his story and some interesting material but, on the face of it, little in the way of additional evidence as to who actually fired the munitions.

It is certainly the case that, under fire from loyalist forces, an assumption that these forces were responsible for the firing of the MAT-120 is a natural reaction, but he has yet to offer any proof – hopefully his next installment contains something substantial.

It is good that CJ Chivers has released new imagery of the MAT-120 including a sideview photo of the MAT-120, which may be useful to the investigation and to ascertain which weapons system was used and urge him and photographer Bryan Denton to release copies of ALL the photographs (preferably high resolution) they have taken in Misrata so that everyone can get a better view of the full panoply of munitions used by all sides in the battle.

22 June Update

Another update from the New York Times.

The article states that various Spanish officials are claiming that exports of the MAT-120 have been made to Libya.

According to the article, Ramon Muro Martinez, the Deputy Director General for Foreign Trade of Defense Materials and Dual Use Goods wrote to Mr Chivers saying:

One license to Lybia consisting of 5 cluster munitions for demonstration was issued in August 2006. The export took place in October 2006. There were two more licenses issued in December 2007 with a total amount of 1,050 cluster munitions. They were sent in March 2008.

According to the article:

In a follow-up e-mail on the same day, Mr. Martinez confirmed, to be absolutely clear, that the cluster munitions we were discussing were the MAT-120 rounds manufactured by Instalaza SA.

In addition CJ Chivers says that:

the ministry confirmed that the government of Libya had submitted an end-user certificate, or EUC, for MAT-120 rounds to the government of Spain

and that an email

from another ministry official, Ana Terreros Gomez, said that the “EUC issued by the Libya authorites was authenticated by the Spanish Embassy in Tripoli November 28th 2007.”

The Spanish government needs to produce a credible account of these matters, of course, and come clean on its whole record. They also need to actually provide some real evidence, not just on the MAT-120 but on the other cluster munitions which have gone AWOL as well.

Another update from the New York Times today (23 June)

A lot about HRI. Less of relevance to the investigation, unfortunately.

For the record:

1. HRI is entirely unconvinced about the Spanish officials claims in this matter and is still awaiting documentation requested weeks ago

2. HRI has shown the evidence presented by CJ Chivers regarding the MAT-120 and short stub case is mistaken.

3. Yes, HRI does frequently change its mind on the basis of the evidence received and analysis of it. That kind of happens in investigations.

4. We thank those who have provided useful information and evidence relevant to the Misrata and Spanish cluster bomb investigations and would urge those yet to reply to do so.

Update 19 July CJ Chivers is now back in Libya and producing some important work

Extracts from the Report of the International Commission of Inquiry to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya directly relevant to the use of cluster munitions in Libya:

 With regard to the use of weaponry, the commission is concerned that the Libyan authorities have not been making appropriate and precautionary assessments which would, in the commission’s view, militate against the use of weapons such as mortars in densely populated urban areas. The commission is also concerned about reports of the use of weapons such as expanding bullets, cluster munitions and phosphorous weapons in highly populated areas. Further investigation, however, including forensic analysis, would be needed to confirm the use of these ammunitions.

With regard to allegations concerning the conduct of hostilities by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the commission is not in a position at this stage to assess the veracity of the information received concerning indiscriminate attacks on civilians. The commission has not, however, seen evidence to suggest that civilians or civilian objects have been intentionally targeted by NATO forces, nor that it has engaged in indiscriminate attacks.

Finally, the commission feels that, at this stage, it is not in a position to identify those responsible, as requested by the Human Rights Council in the resolution establishing its mandate.

The commission, in view of the time frame within which it has had to complete its work, and considering the gravity and the complexity of the situation, recommends that the Human Rights Council remain seized of the situation by extending the mandate of the commission or by establishing a mechanism with the ability to continue the necessary investigations into both the human rights and humanitarian law situations in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya for a period of one year.

Page 63:

185. Cluster munitions. The Commission is aware of reports of the use of cluster munitions by pro-Government forces in their attempt to regain control of the besieged city of Misrata. On 15 April 2011, HRW reported that Government forces had fired cluster munitions in residential neighborhoods of Misrata further specifying that the cluster munitions were Spanish produced MAT 120mm mortar projectile, which open in mid-air and release 21 submunitions over a wide area.241 Other independent sources including Amnesty International have confirmed the incident and stated that Spain sold such munitions to Libya in 2007. Further investigation, including military and forensic pathologist expertise is, however, required to confirm or deny the usage of cluster munitions.

241 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. Human Rights Watch, “Libya: Cluster Munitions Target Misrata,” 15 April 2011, available from

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/04/15/libya-cluster-munitions-strike-misrata.

Page 64:

188. Mortars: Based upon the facts available to it, the Commission believes that Government forces of Libya utilized mortars in their attacks on Misrata and Zintan. Mortars are weapons that kill or maim whoever is within the impact zone after they explode and they are unable to distinguish between combatants and civilians. A decision to deploy them in a location where a large number of civilians is likely to be present, is a decision that a commander should know will result in the death and/or and injuries of some of those civilians.

4. Conclusion

189. From the information available to it, the Commission is concerned that the Libyan authorities have not been undertaking appropriate and precautionary assessments which would, in the Commission’s view, militate against the use of weapons, such as mortars, in densely urban areas. The Commission is also concerned about reports of the use of weapons such as expanding bullets, cluster munitions or phosphorous weapons within highly populated areas. Further investigation, however, including forensic analysis would be needed to confirm the usage of these ammunitions.

Link to Report

 

Admiral James Stavridis and Misrata

Admiral James G Stavridis, NATO Supreme Commander Europe, tops the military command structure with regard to the coalition operation in Misrata.

As we have stated before his job encompasses the war on the land, air, on the sea and also the ‘information war’ and in his words:

“We sail in a cyber-sea and it is a rebel sea, and we must learn how to govern, how to sail in that sea.”

Because of the sheer weight of evidence that the USA cluster bombed Misrata the spotlight is now back on him.

Admiral James Stavridis and Special Operations

We find that Admiral James Stavridis is deeply involved in US Special Operations (including the operation which killed Bin Laden):

As the Telegraph’s Toby Harnden put it::

But here’s what the legendarily verbose and loose-lipped Vice President Joe Biden said at a dinner at Washington’s Ritz Carlton Hotel last night to mark the 50th anniversary of the Atlantic Council:

Let me briefly acknowledge tonight’s distinguished honorees.  Admiral James Stavridis is a, is the real deal.  He can tell you more about and understands the incredible, the phenomenal, the just almost unbelievable capacity of his Navy SEALs and what they did last Sunday.

And:

Folks, I’d be remiss also if I didn’t say an extra word about the incredible events, extraordinary events of this past Sunday.  As Vice President of the United States, as an American, I was in absolute awe of the capacity and dedication of the entire team, both the intelligence community, the CIA, the SEALs.  It just was extraordinary.

Admiral Stavridis and the information war

On 21/07/2010 Admiral Stavridis picked this question out of the many sent to him on his social networks:

“What’s the best advice you can give to operational commanders to help with the information war, that is so critical in today’s environment?”

His answer was telling and indicates the importance given to this aspect of warfare and perhaps why the coalition propaganda has been so effective in the case of Libya. It also indicates a danger to democracy, with free speech being undermined by a new network of dedicated, military-trained bloggers and information specialists:

“People. Its investing in our young people who already have intuitively so many of the information age skill-sets. What we need to do is gather them up in their 20s, get them the right training and education and create a cadre within the military who are specialised in this kind of information war and frankly if we look today at the kind of environment we’re in, its pretty easy to project a future in which the information aspects of conflict are going to be quite significant.”

So we can assume that there is a cadre of covert information specialists out there who are working full-time at shaping the public discussion over the war in Libya – and there likely will be such a cadre in all future wars.

Admiral Stavridis and humanitarian organisations

Another major concern of Admiral Stavridis is “government-civilian” connections and specifically working with humanitarian operations – and we can now see the fruits of his labours as certain humanitarian organisations (along with most of the mainstream media) actively embrace pro-war propaganda.

On this page, HRI presents some of the evidence relevant to the use of cluster munitions in Misrata in April 2011.

As more information comes to light, and in response to the requirements of the on-going investigation, this page is updated on a fairly regular basis.

Unlike those who jump to instant conclusions based on propaganda and partial truths,  HRI is sceptical and unbiased – which clearly isn’t popular in some quarters.

For those looking for a 100% definite answer as to who fired the munitions into Misrata, this page will be a bit of a disappointment but more about links between the banks, governments, arms traders and the military is being uncovered on an almost daily basis.

The use of cluster munitions in Misrata

On 15th April 2011, during the day, sub-munitions of a MAT-120 cluster munition were shown to Human Rights Watch (HRW) and C.J. Chivers, a journalist for the New York Times, in Misrata. That evening, during ongoing clashes between rebel and loyalist forces, HRW workers witnessed 3 or 4 cluster munitions landing in residential areas of Misrata. HRW attest to further subsequent such bombings.

Initial Reactions

Civilians were reportedly killed in these attacks and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, condemned:

“The reported repeated use of cluster munitions and heavy weaponry by Libyan government forces in their attempt to regain control of the besieged city of Misrata.”

She noted that one cluster munition had reportedly exploded a few hundred metres from a hospital in Misrata while another two clinics were apparently hit by mortar or sniper fire.

“Using imprecise weaponry such as cluster munitions, multiple rocket launchers and mortars, and other forms of heavy weaponry, in crowded urban areas will inevitably lead to civilian casualties.”

These attacks were immediately blamed these attacks on the Gaddafi regime and the news has been a front page and first item on the television news around the world.

Here are the relevant HRW and NYT reports:

The Human Rights Watch Report of 15th April on which the Ghaddafi forces fired cluster munitions story has been based.

CJ Chiver’s report on 15th April, ‘Qaddafi Troops Fire Cluster Bombs Into Civilian Areas’

Fred Abrahams on BBC Radio 4 Today Program 16 April 2011

In response to the question of why he assumed the munitions were fired by Libyan rather than NATO forces, Fred Abrahams said,

“Because the MAT-120 is mortar-fired and NATO has no troops on the ground.”

When initially confronted with the information that cluster munitions had been found in Misrata, Hillary Clinton’s reaction was:

“That is worrying information. And it is one of the reasons the fight in Misrata is so difficult, because it’s at close quarters, it’s in amongst urban areas and it poses a lot of challenges to both NATO and to the opposition.”

The MAT-120 cluster munition

The MAT-120 cluster bomb

The MAT-120 can be fired from a number of smoothbore 120mm mortar systems. A 12omm mortar system is a large calibre mortar, operated by a small team and in service with a number of nations.

The systems which can fire the MAT-120  include the NEMO and AMOS systems mounted in a turret.

Here is the AMOS system mounted on a CB-90 in action:

The combination of the AMOS and the Combat Boat 90H has been described as ideal for fire support in urban environments. As Captain Evin H. Thompson, Commander of US Naval Special Warfare Group Four, said in June 2007, in relation to a specific question about US Navy use of the CB90-H and AMOS system (which fires the MAT-120):

“The Amos or something like that – tied into my reduced signature boat gives special operations and our Navy the ability to clandestinely be someplace with the capability to act if circumstances allow.”

Spanish sales of the MAT-120 to Libya.

Spanish media reports indicate that Instalaza have denied selling these weapons to Libya.

The Spanish Industry Minister, Miguel Sebastian (himself linked to a bank who have financed US cluster munition manufacture), has so far failed to meet the HRI request to release details of all exports of cluster munitions.

The Spanish government  needs to confirm exactly what happened to all stocks of MAT-120 produced, where the machinery for making the MAT-120 has ended up, where the MAT-120 was exported to and where they have been stored.

As far as official exports go, a lot hangs on whether the MAT-120 is regarded as a category 3 munition (ML3) – in which case, of the countries to which category 3 exports were officially made in 2007 and 2008, only the USA has not signed the Convention against Cluster Munitions and is involved in the conflict in Libya – or if it is categorised as a Category 4 munition (ML4) in which case the USA, Qatar and Libya fit the bill. According to Nicholas Marsh of NISAT, who is an expert in these matters, “There is a blurred division between weapon categories, and especially ML3 and ML4.”

If exports of the MAT-120 were made to Libya, it has to be explained why, who made the decision, how many were sent there, at what time, of which batches and where else these munitions went.

There is additional detail on this in the section on Spanish bombs.

The United States leadership fully approve of cluster munitions

Although Spain has apparently gone to extraordinary effort to try and clear the USA of any involvement in the use of cluster munitions in Misrata, the USA has refused to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions and these weapons are an important part of their arsenal with the USA possessing a large stockpile of cluster munitions.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has said cluster munitions are regarded by the US as:

“Legitimate weapons with clear military utility.”

As Richard Kidd, Director of the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, U.S. Department of State, wrote in “Is There a Strategy for Responsible U.S. Engagement on Cluster Munitions?” April 28, 2008:

“Cluster munitions are available for use by every combat aircraft in the U.S. inventory, they are integral to every Army or Marine maneuver element and in some cases constitute up to 50 percent of tactical indirect fire support.”

Yet, incredibly, the alleged war crime of bombing Misrata is also being used by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other authorities to justify an escalation of the conflict in Libya.

The US government position in favour of the use of cluster munitions, their widespread possession by US forces and the weakening of the Convention on Cluster Munitions to accommodate nations fighting in coalition with US forces,  implicates the US government in the use of cluster munitions anywhere in the world.

The Battle for Misrata

As part of the investigation, HRI is looking into both land and naval forces  involved in the Misrata operation, as the specific units involved, operating at night, who made use of the cluster munitions is not yet clear.

There is no doubt that this was fierce urban warfare, with hundreds killed in the battle and NATO, including US Naval forces, about which HRI has written, were deeply involved.

On the 14th of April, NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen confirmed that Admiral Stavridis had briefed foreign ministers that Gadaffi’s forces were now in populated areas and that “to avoid civilian casualties we need very sophisticated equipment.”

Certainly coalition forces were providing fire support and (allegedly) special services support to the rebels in order to secure the town for the rebels and establish a major foothold in western Libya.

Our update on the bombing of Misrata shows that on the eve of the Royal Wedding, NATO admitted to using “certain weapons” within the city of Misrata and some more detail on this has been provided by the RAF.

So it is quite clear that coalition forces were deeply involved in the bombing of Misrata, using deadly force in a civilian area, contrary to the spirit of UN Resolution 1973.

Human Rights Investigations calls for:

1). A full investigation by the United Nations into the use of munitions (including cluster munitions and DU weapons), particularly in urban areas.

2) For all parties in the Libyan conflict to confirm they will not use cluster munitions in the current conflict and to pledge to sign up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

3). Suspension of military personnel found to be involved pending investigation for war crimes.

4). An end to the ‘information war’ and military distortion of the public debate.

5). An end to the ongoing bombing of Libya which is against the spirit and intent of UN Resolution 1973 which was intended to protect civilians, not justify bombing of civilian areas.