Attorneys file civil suit against NATO for Libya air strike

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[JURIST] A group of attorneys filed a civil lawsuit in Belgium against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO [official website] Thursday alleging it is responsible for killing 13 civilians in a bombing of a residential compound in Libya. The complaint was filed [AP report] on behalf of retired Libyan general and member of Libya’s Revolutionary Council, Khalid el Hamidi, whose three children were killed and home was destroyed during an air strike on June 20. Marcel Ceccaldi, an attorney representing Hamidi, said that civil cases against NATO fall under Belgium jurisdiction. NATO benefits from diplomatic immunity from criminal cases given its status as an international organization. NATO has acknowledged targeting the area, but justified the attack, calling the compound a “command and control” center. The plaintiffs contend that the air strike violated the Geneva Convention [ICRC materials] rules of war because the targeted area was a residential compound. Ceccaldi also urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] to investigate the alleged war crime, suggesting the case would be a good opportunity for the ICC to restore credibility.

The ICC issued arrest warrants [decision, PDF; JURIST report] against Libyan leader Mummar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and two of his high-ranking officials in June. ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official website] said his office had gathered “direct evidence” [JURIST report] that shows Gaddafi personally ordered attacks on civilian protesters, that his forces used live ammunition on crowds, attacked civilians in their homes, used heavy weapons against people in funeral processions and placed snipers to shoot those leaving mosques after prayer services. Moreno-Ocampo announced [JURIST report] in May that his office was pursuing arrest warrants against Gaddafi and the two others in his inner circle. There have been numerous allegations of war crimes and human rights violations over the Libyan revolt. Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website], after an investigative panel, published a 92-page report on human righsts abuses in Libya, decided to extend its mandate [JURIST reports], instructing it to continue investigating allegations. The report claims Libyan authorities have committed varying crimes against humanity “as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack.”

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