Friday, November 04, 2011
Wednesday, 02 November 2011 19:32
It is now on record that Muammar Gaddafi was killed after his convoy was attacked by NATO planes, including aircraft from the US and France, and after he was captured alive. These apparent facts are believed by most independent analysts to be correct, and needless to say, they point to yet another serious violation of international law involving the United States and its NATO allies.
The circumstances under which Gaddafi was murdered are quite similar to how the CIA-led and US-trained Bolivian military forces summarily executed Ernesto Che Guevara in October 1967, also after capturing him alive.
The circumstances are also reminiscent to the summary execution of Osama bin Laden by the US special forces, The Seals, in May this year; although the context of bin Laden's killing cannot be described as an armed conflict, much as the US may insist that its forces were fighting in a "war against terrorism".
The wilful killing or summary execution of a prisoner of war who is no longer participating in an armed conflict is a grave breach of the Third Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War of 1949, to which both the United States and France are parties.
It does not make any difference that the prisoner of war in question is a dislikeable character, an alleged tyrant, a suspected war criminal, or that he has been in power for over 40 years.
It simply makes no difference at law how much one dislikes the particular prisoner of war, or how angry one is at that prisoner of war.
The resulting obligation for all parties to this Convention is that they investigate, arrest, try, convict and then punish perpetrators of any such crimes.
But for the US to call for such an "inquiry" over Gaddafi's killing as has already happened there is an irony to be explained.
It is like the murderer presiding over the investigation of his own murder crime.
Of course, the Third Geneva Convention applies mainly during international armed conflicts and we must consider the Libyan scenario in this context.
The moment Operation Odyssey involving France, the UK and the US was launched, the Libyan conflict became international, especially on the strength of Resolution 1973, which effectively was UN Security Council authorisation of foreign intervention.
When NATO later came in there was no doubt whatsoever that the Libyan street protests involving students and rag tag and barely armed Benghazi rebels had been deliberately and intentionally elevated to a fully fledged international armed conflict targeting Libyan military bases officially, but in reality designed to assassinate Gaddafi and his family, something that was predicted by many analysts from the onset of the war in March this year.
The fact that the intervention was based on a UN Security Council resolution makes no difference at all.
International humanitarian law applies to any international conflict, even an illegal one like the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
If one of the domestic parties to a non-international armed conflict becomes an ally of a foreign power or foreign powers and commences fighting against its own people as was clearly done by the NATO-led and Western funded Benghazi rebels, these rebels evidently come under enough control from the foreign powers so as to make the foreign powers directly responsible for their acts.
As such the murdering of Gaddafi cannot be separated from the culpability of NATO and that of the Western leaders at whose command NATO operates. Every form of thuggery and act of lawlessness by the NTC's NATO-led rebels is the direct responsibility of NATO and the Western powers behind the conflict in that country.
There is evidence ample enough to make it abundantly clear that the rebels who executed Gaddafi were under the direction and control of NATO forces, who themselves were effectively the air force of these rebel bands, a pattern that became the trademark of the entire warfare that saw Gaddafi ousted from power.
The mere fact that Gaddafi's convoy was first attacked by foreign air power and then by foreign-sponsored and armed ground forces that evidently included foreign troops and Special Forces is quite telling evidence in proving the liability of the US and its Western allies.
Moreover, it is apparent that Gaddafi was fleeing Sirte, itself a clear target of unprovoked aggression by NATO and its lackey rebels, and as such Gaddafi was attacked not as a threat to any civilians in Libya, the remit of the use of force provided by the UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
Rather this attack comes across as either an indiscriminate attack or one aimed at killing defenceless people fleeing from an armed conflict. The only provocation attributable to the people of Sirte is their refusal to condemn and disown Muammar Gaddafi, or more precisely the misfortune of them sharing the same ethnicity with the fallen leader.
Whichever way one looks at it, it was a use of force against the political independence and territorial integrity of Libya, especially given the fact that the NATO-led rebels had expressly stated they do not form a new government of Libya, rather demanding the departure of Gaddafi to pave way for a transitional arrangement, a position later disregarded blatantly at the command of Sarkozy and David Cameron.
The attack on Libya fairly constitutes the crime of aggression, regardless of the current international debate on the definition of aggression.
The attack on Sirte was in its entirety outside the remit of the mandate of the UN Security Council, which itself is and must be bound by international law.
In fact the attack evidently constitutes a serious violation of one of the most fundamental principles of international law prohibiting the use of force.
It amounts to ethnic cleansing, especially given that the whole attack was meant to coerce a whole tribe to behave in a particular way and to submit to the wishes of an armed adversary backed by foreign powers.
One can look at Gaddafi's death from the point of view of international humanitarian law. This law applies during war time and peace time, for tyrants and also for statesmen, in regards to democracies and to non-democracies, for elected leaders and for self-imposed leaders.
It protects even coup leaders like Gaddafi.
The law imposes a higher standard than in an armed conflict, limiting force to what is absolutely necessary so as to achieve a lawful goal.
In this particular case we saw the use of high-tech air power, including drones, and then we saw anti-aircraft guns targeting land-based persons, something that became a trademark of the NATO-led rebels throughout the entire conflict, not mentioning the trigger happy bunches of unruly rebels that often shot endlessly in the air when they were not shooting at anyone indiscriminately suspected of being a Gaddafi supporter, especially dark skinned Libyans.
It is reasonable to conclude that the entire conduct of NATO and its rebel subjects constitutes excessive and indiscriminate use of force in gross violation of the right to life.
Without any stretching of legal interpretations, the summary execution of a prisoner of war clearly violates the right to life, itself a fundamental right under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
If there were ever such a thing as respect for international law, the offending states would be ordered to return the situation to what it was before their violation of the law began, of course something now impossible after the summary execution of Gaddafi.
As portrayed by the immature and brainless euphoric celebrations by Hilary Clinton over the brutal death of Muammar Gaddafi, the United States may in killing Gaddafi have won short term bragging rights as victor in yet another minor battle against yet another defenceless foe, but the long term damage to the US international reputation is surely going to be overwhelmingly massive.
The US has a very long history of boasting about mighty victories over small and defenceless countries, like the 1958 air raids on Laos, the 1982 invasion of Grenada that involved 12 000 elite troops over a country of 100 000 people who did not even have a meaningful police force, let alone an army, and now the mighty victory over a tiny 5.8 million people-Libya - achieved on the backdrop of high tech drones and extremely advanced war planes bombing freely with no retaliation whatsoever.
Under international law, other states may seek to use the US or NATO's international law violations as justification for their own intentional wrongful acts.
Yes, there are political and legal limits to unlawful acts that other states may take in response to the West's habitual violation of international law, but surely there are no limits on lawful action that may be taken, for example taking steps to devalue the US dollar, boycotting US and EU products, or merely stating to treat Americans and Westerners with disdain and as untrustworthy partners in the international community.
Any such act could have dire consequences for the West in general, and for US hegemony in particular, especially now that both the US and the EU are facing seemingly unstoppable economic downfalls.
The West aggressively attacks Libya at a time the EU and the US are most vulnerable, and that would be an extremely dangerous move if Africa was not currently under the leadership of hopelessly harmless treacherous politicians like South Africa's Jacob Zuma and the majority of the West-fearing lot that excludes a few like President Robert Mugabe, whose only known equal in terms of manhood and courage could be the slain Gaddafi.
The illegal invasion of Iraq culminating in the widely condemned travesty of justice that was employed to murder Saddam Hussein, the continued occupation of Afghanistan well after the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, himself the remit used to justify the invasion, and now months of aggression culminating in the extrajudicial execution of Gaddafi are all events guaranteed to send a wrong message to like-minded aggressors.
Other states and even non-state actors who may find the US or any of its NATO allies to be foes get this message that one must kill or be killed to survive in this world. That is the express message we learn from the whole military episode that toppled and murdered Muammar Gaddafi.
The kill or be killed doctrine is the rule of the jungle, not international law. The US is the violator in chief of all international law and it is sad that a country that preaches liberties and freedom to others happens to be the most murderous in human history.
Gaddafi is certainly going to haunt his foes longer and harder than he ever could in his life time.
Africa we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!
l Reason Wafawarova is a political writer based in Sydney, Australia.