Saturday, 19 May 2012

Human Rights Watch Report on Civilian Deaths from NATO Bombing in Syria

Human Rights Watch has published a report with detailed analysis of 8 bombing raids by NATO which resulted in 72 unacknowledged civilian deaths.

The small number of these incidents with which HRW finds issue is a testament to the lengths that NATO went to in Libya to attempt to avoid killing civilians. However, since the purpose of the mission was, under the UN mandate, protection of civilians it is incumbent on NATO to do its utmost to investigate these bombings, compensate families where appropriate, and instigate changes in targeting policy and practice for future missions to minimise these risks. NATO has said it will investigate if asked, but will do nothing proactive for the Libyans it promised to safeguard.

There is something that struck NATO Monitor, given our past analysis of NATO's Libya operation. At least three of the bombing missions were attacks on towns that supported Colonel Gaddhafi to the end- Bani Walid and Sirte. It has been the Monitor's contention all along that the NATO mission evolved from protecting civilians to offering air support to the rebel forces, and this report offers some confirmation of that. There can be no excuse for using the UN mandate to attack targets where there is no threat to civilians, and in these two towns there was none since they backed the government wholeheartedly. The threat to civilians there came from the rebels and from NATO.

If NATO is to repeat its role as military supporter of a UN mandate for POC, it will have to learn the lessons of Libya. It can't do that without understanding the fundamental difference between pursung foreign policy through military means, and the protection of civilians. Clearly, it hasn;t got it right yet.

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