Archives For Misrata

As is now well documented, the rebellion in Libya began with violent attacks on police stations, such as this one in Al-Bayda where people locked inside were reportedly burnt to death:

An intensive propaganda campaign systematically distorted the facts on the ground, including in particular allegations that the Libyan airforce was bombing peaceful protestors and that Libyan soldiers were being massacred for not shooting on unarmed protestors (since proven to have been a false flag operation). This propaganada allowed a mobilisation of the international community and the passing of UN Resolution 1973 which imposed the No-Fly Zone.

It is UN Resolution 1973 which NATO argues provides the legal basis for the coalition operation in Libya as NATO makes clear in their Factsheet on Operation Unified Protector:

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 mandates “all necessary measures” to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under attack or threat of attack. In line with this authorisation, NATO conducts reconnaissance, surveillance and information-gathering operations to identify those forces which present a threat to civilians and civilian-populated areas.

Notwithstanding this NATO supported the rebels as they escalated the level of violence directed against those who opposed them, civilians and guest workers with attacks using Grad rockets, artillery, tanks and mortars – in fact any weapons that could be looted from arms dumps or supplied by NATO, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Here is an early example from Misrata of rebel forces nonchantly firing mortars, in between drinking cups of tea:

With the brutal assault on Sirte, which is facing a bombardment from the air, surpassing Guernica, the indiscriminate assaults on civilian areas are now being taken to a higher level:

As we have seen, NATO’s official justification for their operations includes a requirement “to identify those forces which present a threat to civilians or civilian-populated areas.”

Ralph Jodice

Commander of Allied Air Command Izmir, Lieutenant General Ralph J. Jodice II (U.S. Air Force)

Furthermore the justification includes this:
Targeting depends on the decisions of operational commanders. Targets struck to date have included tanks, armoured personnel carriers, air-defence systems and artillery around and approaching key civilian areas including Misrata, Ajdabiyah and Zintan. [My emphasis]

Yet clearly NATO is supporting the rebel use of tanks and artillery around and approaching the key civilian area of Sirte; indeed NATO and its allies are almost certainly supplying the ammunition for these big guns.

Many journalists are having trouble processing this information, let alone communicating it to their readership, as it does not fit in with the overriding paradigm of an operation “intended to protect civilians.”

It remains to be seen, which journalists have the intelligence to realise that the old paradigm is dead and the courage to communicate this fact to their readers. A new paradigm is required, a new framework to understand the NATO war on Libya, one which recognises that the mantra of “responsibity to protect civilians” which NATO repeats at every press conference and in every press release is nothing more than:

1) A propaganda device, aimed at the fooling the public into supporting a war of aggression.

2) A legal device whereby the NATO command seeks to escape responsibility for war crimes.

Human Rights Investigations has been following the situation of the Tawergha closely and here we draw the information together and find, based on the reports of witnesses, journalists and human rights workers, the situation of the Tawergha is not just one of ethnic cleansing but, according to the legal definition, genocide.

Continue Reading…

As our regular readers will be aware, we have been reporting on the fate of the people of Tawergha since the local rebel commander Ibrahim al-Halbous, said he was going to wipe the town off the map. We reported the storming of the town, with NATO support, and the extremely worrying reports of prisoners in shipping crates and the people of the town being “handed over to the red cross,”  which they weren’t (see ‘Tawergha no longer exists, only Misrata’).

We relayed the reports from Diana Eltahawy of Amnesty International about the inhabitants who managed to flee being persecuted in Tripoli.

Andrew Gilligan, a reporter from The Sunday Telegraph, now reports from Tawergha:

This pro-Gaddafi settlement has been emptied of its people, vandalised and partly burned by rebel forces. The Sunday Telegraph was the first to visit the scene of what appears to be the first major reprisal against supporters of the former regime.

“We gave them thirty days to leave,” said Abdul el-Mutalib Fatateth, the officer in charge of the rebel garrison in Tawarga, as his soldiers played table-football outside one of the empty apartment blocks. “We said if they didn’t go, they would be conquered and imprisoned. Every single one of them has left, and we will never allow them to come back.”

Andrew Gillighan is a serious reporter and he even mentions the racial context:

And as so often in Libya, there is also a racist undercurrent. Many Tawargas, though neither immigrants nor Gaddafi’s much-ballyhooed African mercenaries, are descended from slaves, and are darker than most Libyans.

Along the road that leads into Tawargha, the Misurata Brigade has painted a slogan. It says, “the brigade for purging slaves [and] black skin.”

We have to say, the racist element is more than an undercurrent, but if more journalists had reported the truth rather than turning a blind eye, refusing to report or to investigate then perhaps lives could still be saved.

In this context we should just mention the “reporting” of so-called journalists such as Chris Stephen who has been in Misrata for weeks writing pro-war, pro-NATO propaganda for the benefit of the Guardian’s readership and failing miserably to report on the racist atrocities and ethnic cleansing.

Update (12 September) – The Washington Post reports Human Rights Watch Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert as confirming:

“It really is racist violence against all dark-skinned people, this situation for Africans in Tripoli is dire.”

Update (14th September) – The ethnic cleansing of Tawergha is now being made permanent with the seal of approval of Mahmoud Jibril.

Please click here for a comprehensive update on the Tawergha

Tawergha has been taken by rebel forces from Misrata, according to a report by Andrew Simmons for Al Jazeera. Unfortunately, the mainstream media has not been giving any context to the battle for Tawergha, so most viewers will be entirely ignorant of the significance of this event.

Rebel forces from Misrata, including one of their commanders, have long threatened to wipe Tawergha off the map, ethnically cleansing its inhabitants.

The report from AL Jazeera shows at least one of the large residential blocks in Tawergha alight, prisoners packed inside a freight container (who the rebels didn’t want filmed), an injured man in civilian clothes and the rebel fighters evicting one of the last civilian left in the town (an Egyptian woman who has lost her 9 children under 12 who ran away during the attack.)

Loyalist prisoner in Tawergha

The last remaining civilians and defenders of the town are reportedly surrounded. Andrew Simmons even failed to challenge the palpable nonsense claimed by the rebel commander he interviewed that only rifles and no heavy weapons were used in the assault on Tawerga:

The apparent fall of Tawergha was also reported by Orla Guerin of the BBC who also, disgracefully, failed to give the ethnic cleansing context despite actually interviewing Ibrahim al-Halbous, the very commander of whom the Wall Street Journal reported:

Ibrahim al-Halbous, a rebel commander leading the fight near Tawergha, says all remaining residents should leave once if his fighters capture the town.  “They should pack up,” Mr. Halbous said. “Tawergha no longer exists, only Misrata.”

Please click here for a comprehensive update – thanks

In the general reluctance to provide details of the origin of the munitions used by the coalition/rebel forces in the battle of Misrata, HRI has been taking a closer look at some of the video evidence available.

Flash- Bang

Here is a video taken by AFP after the clearing of a strategically important building overlooking Tripoli Street in Misrata for the rebels.

Take a close look at the grenade in the last seconds of the clip:

This grenade is a 40mm Double Flash-Bang Grenade made by Nico-Pyrotechik. Hamburg Germany:

First created by British for special air service as an incapacitant. The stun hand grenade, or “flash bang” is a non lethal weapon that is a diversionary or distraction device used during a building or room clearing.

Made in Germany

NICO-Pyrotechnik is a part of Rheinmetall Defence and is a long-established German weapons manufacturer. The German and Spanish arms industries, of course, have long thrived on secrecy and links with dodgey politicians (as we have found with the two most recent Spanish Industry Ministers  Miguel Sebastian and Joan Clos i Matheu). Back in the 1930s Rheinmetall was controlled by Hermann Goering who managed to find ways to profit from sales to the Spanish Republicans whilst simultaneously urging Adolf Hitler to use the Condor Legion to provide bombing support to Franco’s fascists.

The German arms industry is now regaining its past glory and could perhaps be said to constitute a Fourth Reich – as Germany is now the third largest exporter of arms in the world, led by companies such as Daimler (better known as the producer of Mercedes) and EADS.

US Special Ops

Rheinmetall, through American Rheinmetall (ARM) has a contract to supply stun grenades to US special operations forces. This particular munition is marked NIC-08/03-0[?]. A  NICO catalogue includes dummy rounds which have the code format JJ-MM-00 (Year, Year – Month, Month).

In an interview with €uro on 18th May the head of Rheinmetall, Klaus Eberhardt, stated that his company had exported no weapons to Libya and the German Federal Government had not given permission for any such sales. He also confirmed that the USA is a very important market for his company as is the United Arab Emirates.

So how did this particular munition get to be used in the battle for this strategically important building overlooking Tripoli Street? And how deeply involved were US Special Forces in supporting the Libyan rebels as they ethnically cleansed Misrata?

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?

 

Towards an understanding of amphibious warfare and the battle of Misrata

It is important for human rights investigators to understand battle tactics and strategy and in this case those of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC). The plan below from the NECC (October 2010) helps understand the tactics and strategy informing the US forces battle plans for expeditionary warfare.

An explanation of the various acronyms involved:

The light blue arrow marked SEABASE has CSG / MPS (F) underneath – These stand for Carrier Strike Group and Maritime Prepositioning Force. It is an important tenet of modern expeditionary warfare that seabasing is actually preferred to land basing – a lot of the hullabaloo about “boots on the ground” is pretty irrelevant to this kind of warfare, which aims to minimise the footprint of coalition forces. The arrow shows how force is projected from the SEABASE, including logistics sustainment, power projection and sealift.

The green arrrow marked MAGTF refers to Marine Air Ground Task Force. ARG means Amphibious Ready Group. LOTS refers to Logistics Over the Shore. STOM is a Ship to Objective manoevre. Forcible Entry should be self-explanatory.

The tan arrow refers to shipping traffic into a port, as was obviously the case with Misrata, with ships delivering humanitarian aid, evacuating people and bringing in fighters, journalists, weapons and ammunition.

The smaller white bubbles in the sea include (from the bottom upwards):

MESF – Maritime Expeditionary Security Force. This includes the MSRONs (Marine Expeditionary Squadrons aka as “Rons”) who use CB-90s.

SPOD Seaport of debarkation and APOD – Aerial Port of Debarkation.

The other bubbles on land (clockwise from the bottom) refer to:

ELSG / AOTS – Expeditionary Logistics Support Group, Automated Tracking System

EOD / – Explosive Ordnance Disposal

NCF – Naval Construction Force

ELSG – Expeditionary Logistics Support Group

MCAST – Marine Corp Air Station

The yellow arrow represents a logistic flow from the airport into the city

The context of this plan includes the development of SFA-capable forces. SFA is unified action to generate, employ and sustain local, host nation or regional forces in support of a legitimate authority.

Map of Misrata

Below is a google map of Misrata, showing the location of the port at the bottom, city and airport at the top middle

Google Map of Misrata

US Navy ships off the coast of Libya

The main ships from the United States Navy – ie “supporting Operation Unified Protector, off the coast of Libya” on the 14th and 15th April were attached to the Kearsarge Amphibious Group – Kearsarge (LHD-3) itself was in port in Augusta Bay, Sicily during the nights on which cluster munitions were used in Misrata.

The first ship is the USS Barry (DG-52) which is a destroyer and probably the destroyer spotted by CJ Chivers off the coast of Misrata.

Here is USS Barry earlier in the Libyan operation firing Tomahawk missiles into Libya:

Interestingly, the commanding Officer of USS Barry used to be Admiral James G Stavridis, the Admiral who is particularly keen on information wars and controlling the internet.

RHIB going from USS Ponce to Barry on 14th April

The second ship of interest is the USS Ponce (LPD-15), an Austin-class amphibious transport dock. An amphibious transport dock is a warship that embarks, transports and lands elements of a landing force for expeditionary warfare missions. This ship had something of the order of 851 enlisted servicemen and 72 officers on board.

USS Barry Personnel return from USS Ponce April 15 2011

Below we can see a landing craft docking in the well of the USS Ponce. This vessel could perhaps provide a platform for the use of indirect fire, including 120mm mortar fire.

LCU 1661 in training in Djibouti in October 2010:

Interestingly, shortly after the Misrata operation, both the skipper and executive officer of USS Ponce, Commander Etta Jones and Lt. Cmdr. Kurt Boenisch, were relieved of their commands.

The third ship, of interest, is the USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) which is a dock landing ship and travelled through the Suez canal to join the others on April 13th, the day before the cluster bombing of Misrata. A dock landing ship is a form of amphibious warship designed to support amphibious operations. These amphibious assault ships transport and launch amphibious craft and vehicles with their crews and embarked personnel. usually these forces would be marines and/or special forces.

Marine Forces

Embarked on these ships were units, including the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) (26MEU) and Naval Beach Group Two (NBG2), TACRON 21, Assault Craft Unit Four (ACU-4) and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron TWO TWO (HSC-22).

The commander of the task force was Captain Dan Shaffer – who doubled up as Commander Task Force 65 (CTF-65) and Commander Destroyer Squadron 60 (DESRON60).

Kearsarge ARG was relieved on 27 April by Bataan ARG.

The Bataan ARG includes PHIBRON-6, with detachments from Naval Beach Group Two (CNBG) 2, Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) 21, Fleet Surgical Team Six (FST) 8, Helicopter Squadron Twenty Two (HSC) 28, Beach Master Unit (BMU) 2, Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 2 and ACU-4. ARG ships include the Norfolk-based Bataan, the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19), and the dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41).

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit is a Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) comprised of the Command Element, Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, and Combat Logistics Battalion 22.

Overall commander is Admiral Stavridis.

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

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.