Archives For misurata

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

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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.

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:

 

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.

On 15th April Human Rights Watch issued a statement asserting,

“Government forces loyal to the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, have fired cluster munitions into residential areas in the western city of Misrata.”

Subsequent reports indicate a large number of civilians died in these attacks.

According to Fred Abrahams, Human Rights Watch assigned responsibility for these attacks to the loyalist forces on the basis that this munition was only fired from land-based mortars.

In fact, the MAT-120 is a specialised heavy cargo mortar system which is typically fired from a turret and which can be mounted on a small sea-based vessel.

The assignment of responsibility for these attacks to the Gaddafi forces is therefore, at best, premature.

Indeed, there is evidence these munitions are in the armoury of the coalition forces, the weapons systems needed to deliver them are in the coalition armoury and the coalition military leadership, including US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates regard the use of these weapons as effective and legitimate.

As the purported use of these munitions by Gaddafi’s forces has been an important factor in escalation of the Libyan conflict, it is a matter of urgency that Human Rights Watch correct their original report and ensure the world’s press are aware of the mistake made.

In addition, we would ask Human Rights Watch to provide a full explanation of

1) How this mistake was made, including from where the false information came from that these weapons could only be delivered by land-based weapons systems.

2) Why later investigation by HRW did not turn up this error.

Given the new information we have uncovered we would also expect Human Rights Watch

1) To issue a demand for full disclosure of coalition possession and use of cluster munitions in the Libyan conflict.

2) To issue a demand the coalition forces provide a full explanation of their operations, including special operations, off the coast of Misrata.

Update 23 June – No reply received – see later articles for updates on the HRI investigation.