Archives For Misrata

The US Navy forces involved in the operation to seize Misrata come under the spotlight as part of the ongoing HRI investigation into the cluster bombing of Misrata.

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

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.
USS Barry participated in an exercise (FLEETEX 2-94) which involved covert SEAL team extraction in shallow water off the Carolina coast. USS Barry is based at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, also the base of Eva H. Thompson – the commander of Special Warfare Unit Four, who we have quoted before, praising the usefulness of the Combat Boat 90 and AMOS system.

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.

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.

Embarked on these ships were certain units, including the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) (26MEU) and Naval Beach Group Two (NBG2), TACRON 21, Four 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). He is under the command of Admiral Stavridis.

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:
 
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:

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.

Did Qatar bomb Misrata? – the dangers in allying with an Arab dictatorship.

There have been a number of breaks in our ongoing investigation into the cluster bombing of Misrata over the last few days. We now have a lot more information about the disposition of forces on the relevant days (mid-April) and a new line of enquiry has opened up – and that is the involvement of the Qatar Emirates navy and marines.

At this stage HRI cannot release all the information or sources as investigation are ongoing, but we are going to release throw a few facts out there because it is important that journalists and politicians start asking more of the relevant questions.

There is evidence that Qatari naval forces possessed the particular weapons system used to deliver the MAT-120 (the cluster munition found in Misrata).

The evidence that Spain sold Qatar category 4 munitions (bombs) at the relevant time is in the Spanish National Report.

Qatar has refused to sign up to the Convention against Cluster Munitions.

We also have evidence regarding the presence of Qatari military units in the Mediterranean around 14th April.

The knowledge that a Qatari C-17 has been involved in supply of material to the war against Libya is a matter of public record as are some of the movements of this craft.

As Hillary Clinton said when confronted with the information about the use of cluster munitions in Misrata – the situation on the ground in Misrata was complex.

This is a long and complicated investigation and we are following up several lines of investigation.

Update 31 August:

Footage of captured Qatari weapons being smuggled to the Libyan rebels:

 

Speaking on 8th of May to National Public Radio U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Ramsay had the following to say:

“We have absolutely irrefutable evidence that he [Gaddhafi] used likely mortar fire to drop cluster munitions on his own people for the express purpose of killing and injuring them.”

Maj. Gen. Mark F. Ramsay is the Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations and Intelligence, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, NATO, Casteau, Belgium.

This is a long way from Robert Gates’ earlier position on this issue, not to mention Hillary Clinton’s initial reaction (about which more later).

The claim here goes beyond saying Gaddhafi used cluster bombs “likely from mortar fire” to saying this was for the “express purpose” of killing and injuring his own people. Maj. Gen. Ramsay is suggesting NATO have a communications intercept – and one in which Gaddafi (or perhaps his officers) expressly order the use of cluster munitions to kill and injure his own people.

Why has this information not been released? Has this information been shared with the ICC and Louis Moreno Ocampo? How will this be assessed by the ICC?

Will the USA give evidence to the ICC regarding Misrata and how will this be squared with the use, stockpiling and transfer by the USA of millions of cluster bombs and of the use of about 1.2 million cluster bomblets by Israel?

HRI demands the immediate release of the absolutely irrefutable evidence mentioned by U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark Ramsay.

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.

Instalaza has been claiming 40 million euros, according to Spanish newspaper Cincodias in compensation for damages and lost profits after Spain decided to ban cluster bombs.

The claim was put into the Spanish Executive, but the company refuses to say what the result has been. For their part, according to this newspaper report, the Spanish Defence Ministry denies receiving any such demand.

The newspaper repeats the claims that Instalaza exported to Libya and points out that if this is the case it would have needed the approval of the Directorate General of Armament and Equipment of the Ministry of Defence which was headed in 2007 by the current Chief of Staff of Defense, Air Force General José Julio Rodríguez.

The arms sale would have had to have the approval of the the Interministerial Regulatory Board of Foreign Trade in Defence and Dual-Use.

This Board is chaired by the Secretary of State for Commerce, vice-chaired by the Foreign Minister and has the participation of the general director of Strategic Affairs and Terrorism, the intelligence director of the CNI, the director general of Ordnance, the director of the Customs Revenue Agency, deputy director of the Guardia Civil operation, the Police, the Secretary General of Foreign Trade and the general secretary of the Ministry of Industry. Its decisions are binding on the Ministry of Foreign Trade, which is the body granting export licenses.

If this is the case, it is a scandal and would mean the Spanish National Reports on Arms Exports were written to deceive the Spanish and international public.

The paper claims Instalaza was granted three licenses to export cluster munitions to Libya in 2007 amounting to 3,83 million euros. It seems unlikely that three licenses would be required for this export.

Human Rights Investigations demands:

1) The public release of the full details of the exports of all cluster munitions by Instalaza as these weapons were apparently used in war crimes.
2) A full account by Spain of why their National Reports did not mention the export of cluster munitions to Libya and action to be taken against the officials involved.
3) We repeat our call for every one of the parties to the conflict, including Libya, Qatar, the UAE and the USA to sign up to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

See our article on the cluster bombing of Misrata for a balanced view as to who used cluster munitions in Misrata.

Amnesty International have published a flawed report on human rights violations in Misratah.

Of the MAT-120 the author states “Spain sold these to Libya in 2007.”

Asked for evidence, one of Amnesty’s writers pointed to speculative reports in the Spanish press.

The report is one-sided, with almost no mention, let alone criticism of the rebels or of the military intervention in Libya. There is little historical context and no attempt to understand the nature of the conflict in Libya or to even discuss considering the conflict in terms of a war of aggression.

The only context given to the conflict is in the footnotes, where it is briefly explained that,

As anti-government protests rocked Misratah – Libya’s third largest city – on 19 February, the first protester was killed by forces loyal to Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi. His funeral the following day drew large crowds and, as was happening elsewhere in eastern Libya, most members of the army and security forces left the town (and a small percentage joined the protesters). The (mostly light) weapons left behind by the departing forces were seized by the thuuwar (or revolutionaries, referring to the protesters who took up arms against Colonel al-Gaddafi’s regime) and shortly after, the city declared its allegiance to the Interim Transitional National Council (TNC) based in Benghazi (Libya’s second city, in the east of the country).

There is no discussion of the smuggling of arms and fighters into the city, under the guise of humanitarian aid, even though the footnotes allude to this smuggling and that it includes 106mm rockets.

Reading this report, you would have little idea that NATO have been bombing inside the city of Misrata for the last four weeks, as reported here and as even NATO have admitted.

To paraphrase The Dude – More information comes to light:

“In 2005, a Spanish company announced that it was going to co-produce with the Finnish defense company Patria a 120mm mortar projectile with submunitions. In 2006, Patria advertised a 120mm mortar projectile that contains 21 submunitions, stating that the dual purpose submunitions contain “electronic fusing…which involves both self-destruction and self-neutralization features, guarantees zero risk of dangerous duds.

During the Dublin negotiations in May 2008, Finland said that it was in the process of acquiring electronically-fuzed cluster munitions from a Spanish manufacturer.  However, there is no indication that a production line was ever opened up, and the deal was cancelled in light of Spain’s decision to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions.”

via Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor.

Patria are, for those paying attention, the company who produce the AMOS and NEMO mortar systems. The Spanish company is, of course, Instalaza.

NATO admitted today that it had been bombing inside the city of Misrata for the last three weeks using “certain weapons” which differentiate between pro-and anti-Gadaffi fighters. None of the assembled press corps asked the obvious question – in an urban environment how do bombs differentiate between the warring sides and civilians?

Its Royal Wedding day and a good day to release the information in front of a supine crowd of journalists at the end of a long press conference – with no transcript provided for the lazy journalists.

So today Brigadier Rob Weighill, Operations Director of Operation Unified Protector, delivered this information:

“NATO, for the last three weeks, has been using certain weapons, in certain parts of the city, where we can discriminate between anti-and pro-Gadaffi forces and we have been very successful in supporting the anti-Gadaffi forces in pushing their perimeter out.”

The bombing of the city of Misrata by NATO forces should be condemned by human rights organisations.

Brigadier Weighill tried to duck the question of whether NATO would allow weapons to be transported from one Libyan port to another – with the clear implication that the rebels would be allowed (as “the forces protecting civilians”) but the loyalist forces not.

It is unfortunately clear that NATO has been allowing military logistics into the city of Misrata to resupply the rebels, under the guise of humanitarian shipments.

As Ruth Sherlock reported on her voyage into Misrata, when challenged by NATO forces,

“The rebel fighters tore cardboard boxes into signs, scribbling “Misrata logistics” in barely discernible green ink, shouting “Allahu akhbar” and trying to give the “V” for victory sign.”

The smuggling of weapons shipments under the guise of aid shipments should be condemned by human rights organisations and is a violation of international law.

NATO Supreme Commander Europe (SACEUR) is Admiral James E Stavridis. His job encompasses the war on the land, air, on the sea and also the ‘information war.’ Admiral Stavridis is the first Navy man to hold this position.

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?”

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