Archives For war crimes

Will the victims of the NATO bombing of Libya see justice?

Evidence about the nature of the weapons used and contemplated from the HRI investigation and others including the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons is spreading through social media networks – but what can be done to ensure that:

1) Those who commit war crimes are prosecuted
2) The victims of the bombing of Libya get justice and 
3) The future use of cluster bombs by the forces involved in Libya is limited?

Although US and Qatari forces have insulated themselves from the ICC’s jurisdiction, those of other forces involved, importantly including those who have members in the NATO command structure, have not.

Although there are concerns about the way the current ICC prosecutor operates and his exclusive prosecution of Africans his reign is nearing its end and a new prosecutor may be less biased.

Although the USA refuses to sign the Convention against Cluster Munitions, most of the other members of the coalition have signed up. Notably, Italy has recently ratified and Naples is one of the main headquarters of the coalition operation in Libya.

Although the major “crime of aggression” is currently almost impossible to prosecute in international law, due mainly to the larger powers wishing to retain their right to attack weaker nations whenever they wish, other war crimes in international armed conflicts can be prosecuted. Indeed:

The domestic legislation of a large number of states provides for universal jurisdiction for grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Although the mass media eagerly publishes any pro-war propaganda, social media, including blogs, facebook and twitter offer the opportunity for citizens to network, inform and support one another in the fight against human rights abuses and war crimes.

Although the specialised units to investigate war crimes in a number of countries (including Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, USA and Canada) are very slow in producing any results at all, the HRI investigation shows what can be achieved by a citizen-blog in a very short space of time.

Although the US investigation unit cost $2.6 million in 2008/09, the cost of setting up a unit in the UK is estimated as £1.34 million and the costs of investigation have been cited as the main obstacle to setting up units in other countries, the HRI investigation is currently entirely voluntary and expenses so far are minimal.

HRI is linking in with legal rights groups and human rights solicitors and will be publicising information about the best routes for the victims of the conflict in Libya to achieve justice and perpetrators of war crimes in this conflict to be prosecuted.

The investigation continues – to inform, to encourage debate – and also to gather evidence.

Will US and Qatari war crimes be investigated by the ICC?

As far as the HRI investigation into the cluster bombing of Misrata is concerned the crucial passage in today’s statement seeking arrest warrants for Muammar Abu Minya Gaddafi, Saif Al Islam Gaddafi and the Head of the Intelligence Abdullah Al Sanousi is:

The Office will further investigate allegations of massive rapes, war crimes committed by different parties during the armed conflict that started at the end of February, and attacks against sub-Saharan Africans wrongly perceived to be mercenaries. “There will be no impunity for such crimes in Libya,” said the Prosecutor.

We will see if Luis Moreno-Ocampo has the balls to thoroughly investigate the war crimes committed by coalition forces.

On the issue of the apparent targeting of Africans by the ICC, there is a denial in the Q&A section. This denial doesn’t really hold water. If Libya was guilty of the cluster bombing of Misrata, Gaddafi could be held responsible by the ICC, if Barack Obama or Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani are found to be responsible the ICC will not be able to prosecute them.

The reason for this is the following paragraph which the US insisted on before allowing the referral to the ICC:

6. Decides that nationals, current or former officials or personnel from a State outside the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya which is not a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of that State for all alleged acts or omissions arising out of or related to operations in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya established or authorized by the Council, unless such exclusive jurisdiction has been expressly waived by the State.

USA and Qatari officials are not subject to the jurisdiction of the ICC unless their States waive their jurisdiction as they are not party to the Rome Statute.

Something seems to have been forgotten here by the American exceptionalists: something even the ancient Romans knew – the goddess Justicia is blind.