Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nato, Libya, the rebels and the ever growing concept of 'Command Responsibility'

 In Libya, today’s rebels may be tomorrow’s war criminals

The conviction for atrocities of a former Croatian Army general shows how careful Nato must be

Adam LeBor   (The Times, April 18 2011)
Few in the West now wish to remember that, like the Libyan rebels, Ante Gotovina was our friend. Our very good friend, in fact. Throughout the summer of 1995 US satellites and CIA drones supplied imagery on Serb positions. The CIA set up listening posts and supplied encryption equipment to the Croatian Army. The US and its allies helped to bring about the biggest single act of ethnic cleansing of the Yugoslav wars.
Once again the West is fighting the most dangerous of conflicts: not in terms of casualties, but politically and, increasingly, legally, a proxy war. Whatever the politicians say, Nato is now acting, de facto, as the rebel air force. Just as in the former Yugoslavia, US and British intelligence officers and special forces in the field are gathering intelligence and liaising with local warlords.
The atrocities and mass murders committed by the Libyan government forces have been well documented. But now there are increasing reports of killings and lynchings committed by the rebels. So far, there have been no large-scale atrocities. But the gruesome accounts of vengeance meted out to some pro-Gaddafi prisoners have already led US officials to warn rebel leaders against harming civilians.
The West is now in alliance with a military force over which it has neither command nor control. But Nato commanders could yet be called to account for the rebels’ actions, especially if they commit atrocities. Many of the verdicts at the Hague are based on the doctrine of “command responsibility”: that a commander knew an atrocity would take place and took no action to prevent it; knew that one was occurring and did not stop it; or failed to punish those who carried it out.
Nato has formally assumed command of all military operations in Libya. The International Criminal Court prosecutor has promised that anyone, whether for or against Gaddafi, committing crimes against civilians will be investigated. That could yet include those who supplied the perpetrators with arms, intelligence and back-up air strikes.

Adam LeBor is the author of Complicity with Evil: the United Nations in the Age of Modern Genocide

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