The Human Rights Council held its interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Libya on 9th March 2012.
Philippe Kirsch, Chairperson of the Commission of Inquiry opened the dialogue with his presentation of the Commission’s report. Mr Kirsch confirmed in his opening statement that the human rights violations perpetrated by Qadhafi forces amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity. In addition, he stated that the Thuwar (anti-Qadhafi forces) had also committed serious human rights violations that constituted war crimes and breaches of international human rights law were continuing.
He confirmed that NATO had taken extensive precautions in its operations to ensure civilians were not endangered. However, there were limited civilian casualties, and the Commission of Inquiry had been unable to conclude whether all necessary precautions had been taken to protect civilians. During the interactive dialogue Cuba, Venezuela and the Russian Federation strongly condemned the NATO intervention, suggesting that it was in fact a campaign to ‘overthrow the regime’.
The Commission of Inquiry recognised the challenges that lie ahead for the new Libyan government in rebuilding its infrastructure after 40 years of serious human rights violations. Mr Kirsch emphasised that the interim Government must concentrate on restoring the judicial system and hold those to account, irrespective of the perpetrator, for human rights violations committed. In addition, Mr Kirsch highlighted to the Council the considerable support that the transitional government will need from the international community and the United Nations.
Speaking as the concerned country, the Deputy Minister of Justice for Libya said that the Libyan authorities had ‘worked around the clock’ to support the Commission of Inquiry and had responded positively to the requests of the Commission. However, he hinted that there had not been enough time to study the final report, commenting that the report is very long and only available in English. In addition, he pointed to failings in the report such as a failure to ‘shed light on the attacks of those that committed the most heinous crimes on the Libyan people’ and that ‘placing the acts of the executioner on an even footing with the reactions of the victims was not logical’.
He also emphasised that the root cause behind disputes between the people of Misrata and Tawerghar had not been explained in the report and said that the old regime ‘had tricked them into hating each other’. In his concluding statement, Mr Kirsch responded to Libya’s concerns that the report was placing ‘victim’ actions on an equal footing with the crimes of the ousted regime by explaining that this report was a supplement to an earlier report that had dealt more fully with the actions of the Qadhafi regime.
He went on to say that the Government of Libya will hold every person accountable for their crimes, that the Government condemns acts of revenge and that it is committed to fair and effective justice.
Key issues that were raised time and again during the interactive dialogue were those of accountability and restoring a functioning judiciary. Participating States were keen to see a commitment to hold all perpetrators to account for human rights violations committed, to see the interim Government bring an end to continued human rights violations and to see an end to arbitrary detention by bringing all detainees under a central governmental control.
The involvement of NATO came under fire with strong condemnation by Cuba, Venezuela and the Russian Federation. In its condemnation, Cuba accused NATO of ‘criminal aggression’ and stated that the real motivation was to gain control of the oil and water reserves in Libya. Venezuela accused NATO action of leading to the deaths of thousands of people in Libya and suggested that the main goal was that of the ‘assassination’ of Muammar Qadhafi. The Russian Federation criticised the Commission of Inquiry for not investigating further the deaths of Muammar Qadhafi and Mutasssim Qadhafi. In addition, the delegation accused NATO of supporting a campaign to overthrow the regime. In contrast, the United Kingdom, Canada and the USA welcomed the Commission of Inquiry’s conclusions that NATO had conducted a highly precise campaign with a determination to avoid civilian casualties. Others, including Malaysia, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called for further investigations into the deaths of civilians.
States generally acknowledged the enormous challenges ahead and extended support to the Libyan government. States such as Indonesia, UK, Czech Republic and the European Union asked how the international community could effectively give assistance to Libya. Responding, Mr Kirsch stated that there is much Libya could do by itself, however external assistance would be useful in the reconstruction of the judicial system and that governmental ministers of Libya were requesting assistance with training in various areas. He added that once the government decided on the support it requires, the whole of the UN system would be available to enter into a dialogue.