Press Room

After Libya Operation: Focus on civilians not political maneuvering

WASHINGTON, DC—With calls for investigations around NATO’s Libya operation intensifying, CIVIC, the war victims advocacy group, called on members of the international community not to politicize allegations of civilian harm.

The alliance’s eight-month operation in Libya officially ended in October 2011. As the international community reviews its impact, Russia and South Africa, early critics of the mission, have used reports of civilian casualties to press for investigations of human rights abuses allegedly committed by NATO.  But the existing International Commission of Inquiry for Libya, established by the UN Human Rights Council, is already reviewing the conduct of all actors in the conflict.

“Libyan civilians are not pawns to be used in a political game between those who did and did not support the NATO operation,” said Sarah Holewinski, executive director of CIVIC.

“Russia, South Africa, and their allies are headed in the wrong direction by singling out NATO in politicized accusations. Civilians harmed, whether by Qaddafi's forces, the Libyan rebels, or NATO, deserve impartial recognition, accountability and, where appropriate, amends,” added Holewinski.

CIVIC, which surveyed civilians harmed across Libya, has called on the National Transition Council to investigate and make amends for any civilian harm caused by rebel forces. The advocacy group also strongly urged NATO to conduct reviews of its targeting of sites that may have had civilians present; evidence of civilian harm brought to NATO by CIVIC, Human Rights Watch, and the New York Times; and to ensure its planned lessons learned process takes civilian protection and harm issues fully into account. If undertaken, these measures—combined with the ongoing work of the International Commission of Inquiry for Libya—would be the strong step needed toward accountability for civilian harm. 

“Civilian harm should never be ignored,” said Holewinski. “But it also shouldn’t be used to divert attention from real accountability, which comes not through politicized language about alleged abuses, but rather through humble, honest efforts to piece together and address the ramifications of a military intervention.”


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