Arab League leader protests Libya air-strikes; charges of war crimes traded

The international operation to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya “has been successful,” top US military commander Michael Mullen said March 20. “They are no longer marching on Benghazi,” Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC News. Meanwhile, the Arab League secretary general, Amr Moussa, protested the air-strikes against Libya, saying he would call a league meeting to reconsider Arab approval of the Western military intervention. “What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone,” he said. “And what we want is the protection of civilians and not the shelling of more civilians.” (Middle East Online, WP, March 20)

Libyan state television is broadcasting pictures of what it says are civilian victims of the allied bombing from the cities if Tripoli, Sirte, Benghazi, Misrata and Zuwarah. The commentary describes the casualties as martyrs. Opposition sources reacted with skepticism to the broadcasts. One said civilian casualties of attacks by Qaddafi loyalists had been taken away and portrayed as victims of allied raids.

In Benghazi, Dr. Fathi Baja, a member of the opposition National Council, said: “We ask our people to raise the level of resistance in the villages and towns of Libya. Qaddafi’s regime is living its last days and its last hours, by the will of God.” (EuroNews, March 20)

International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo warned Libyan government officials March 18 that war crimes prosecution could result for any indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Benghazi. Moreno-Ocampo’s warning follows issuance of an ultimatum by Libyan government officials that all Benghazi citizens must leave the targeted areas that Tripoli plans to attack. According to Moreno-Ocampo, “the issuance of such a warning does not provide an excuse to attack civilians… The government can control rebellion but cannot attack civilians.” Following Moreno-Ocampo’s statement, Tripoli declared a ceasefire to halt international intervention. However, attacks reportedly continued, and Moreno-Ocampo maintains that there will be no impunity for attacks on civilians. (Jurist, March 18)

See our last post on Libya.

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