Archives For human rights investigations

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.

Analysis of official Spanish government documents indicates Spanish company Instalaza may not have exported the MAT-120 cluster weapon to Libya in 2007/08.

In the 2008 report, Libya is listed as a recipient of category 4 munitions (which include bombs) – this is the source of the reports that Libya was provided with the MAT-120 by Spain.

However, the MAT-120 appears not to be a category 4 munition (bomb), but a category 3 one (ammunition for mortar).

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

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:

What does this mean?
This information appears to undermine the contention that the MAT-120, the mortar fired ammunition found in Misrata, was exported to Libya from Spain. In fact, if this reading of the Report is correct, Libya could not have been supplied with the MAT-120.

Of the countries to which category 3 exports were actually made in 2007 and 2008 only the following countries have not signed the Convention against Cluster Munitions:

Andorra, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Poland, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand and the USA.

This information links in to the HRI investigation into who really cluster bombed Misrata.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression (although it cannot currently exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression). It was set up in 2002.

The prosecutor of the ICC is Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the UN Security Council on May 4 that “crimes against humanity have been and continue to be committed in Libya,” but for now he is targeting just three people for arrest.

“I will request the judges to issue arrest warrants against three individuals who appear to bear the greatest criminal responsibility for crimes against humanity committed in the territory of Libya since February 15, 2011,” Moreno-Ocampo said.

It seems from media reports that he will issue arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Saif and the one other shortly.

It will be interesting to see whether the charges against Gaddafi will include the cluster bombing of Misrata.

We hope there will also be full investigation of any rebel, NATO or coalition war crimes.

To date, the ICC has only EVER charged people from Africa. What are the chances of anyone from the USA (Who do not accept its jurisdiction anyway) being charged?

Certain large human rights organisations, in particular Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are wedded to this project so loathe to criticise it.

Nevertheless, Human Rights Investigations calls for

1) An end to the selective enforcement of human rights by the ICC which could be said to amount to institutional racism.

2) Human rights activists to organise themselves using the internet, blogs, twitter and all the other tools at our disposal to investigate and expose human rights abuses, especially the massive human rights abuses perpetrated by the richest and most powerful governments.

Update 19 July

The Associated Press reports the African Union has called on its members to disregard the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Moammar Gadhafi, an official confirmed 2 July 2011. The decision was passed by the African Union 1 July stating that the warrant against Gadhafi “seriously complicates” efforts by the organization to find a solution to the Libyan crisis.

Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union Jean Ping also told reporters that the ICC is “discriminatory” and only goes after crimes committed in Africa, while ignoring those he says were committed by Western powers in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Jean Ping - formerly Foreign Minister of Gabon and President of the General Assembly of the United Nations

“With this in mind, we recommend that the member states do not cooperate with the execution of this arrest warrant,” said the motion, which was shown to The Associated Press and whose passage was confirmed by Daniel Adugna, a spokesman in the AU commissioner’s office.

HRI is focused on investigating human rights abuses which have not been brought to the public’s attention and also to act as a watchdog for other human rights organisations.

HRI is internationalist in outlook, focused on the human rights of the poorest people, dedicated to peaceful resolution of conflicts and not afraid to take on the rich and powerful.

HRI believes in empowering and giving a voice to the poor and oppressed and in working collaboratively with like-minded organisations and individuals.

HRI specialises in painstaking discovery procedures and dispassionate evaluation of information against a framework of international law.

What is the point? We aim to:

1) Identify perpetrators and protect victims
2) Establish the chain of accountability
3) Identify the vehicles to deliver justice and redress to the victims.
4) Influence positive change in laws and practice.
5) Draw attention to serious violations and accountability gaps,
6) Mobilize action nationally and internationally to grant justice to victims.

The ultimate goal of our work is preventing abuses or, at a minimum, mitigating and stopping violations when they do occur.