Probe demanded of Libya bombings

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Jan Egeland, the former Norwegian diplomat who now heads Human Rights Watch in Europe, is calling for an investigation into Norway’s and NATO’s bombing of Libya last year. Egeland fears the bombing killed too many of the civilians that the UN-backed mission was supposed to protect.

Norwegian fighter jets were active over Libya last year, and a top human rights official wants civilian casualties to be investigated. PHOTO: Forsvaret

Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that at least 60 civilians were killed during five separate attacks by NATO fighter jets, according to studies carried out by Human Rights Watch. Among them was the bombing of an estate owned by a retired general, in which his pregnant daughter-in-law and two children reportedly were killed.

Egeland, who also is a former top UN official in charge of refugee issues, wants Norway and its other NATO allies that carried out bombing missions to investigate what happened at the property owned by the al-Hamedi family along with other attacks where civilians were killed. He wants his own government to release information on the attacks and compensate survivors.

Egeland told Aftenposten that Danish fighter jets were also active in the area at the time of the attack, and that Denmark is investigating, “but it can also be Norway that carried out these bombings.”

He also criticized Norway and the other NATO countries that bombed Libya throughout most of last spring, for not being willing to investigate the consequences of the attacks. “NATO has refused to actively carry out investigations in Libya about where and when civilians may have been killed,” Egeland told Aftenposten. “We contend that NATO and Norway are obliged to do this, in line with international law.”

Egeland, who once worked in a Norwegian Labour Party government and is now criticizing former colleagues, said Human Rights Watch “also believes that it’s wrong” for Norway and NATO allies to keep consequences of the bombing secret.

Norwegian jets among most active
All told, NATO carried more than 9,000 bombing attacks, of which Norwegian F16 fighter jets were involved in 583 and dropped 569 bombs. Norwegian Defense Minister Espen Barth Eide maintains that neither Norway nor other NATO members have any obligation to provide compensation for casualties, nor does he want to comment on individual attacks.

“Norwegian jets only engaged legitimate targets,” Eide claimed. “We have no information that suggests we should launch any investigations.”

Asked whether Norwegian fighter jets were involved in the attack on the Hamedi family’s estate, now the subject of an historic legal claim filed in Belgium by Khaled al-Hamedi, Eide said only that “Norway stood together with its allies on the assignment in Libya. Norway follows the principle that NATO accounts for the results of the operations, while we account for the range of our contribution.

“Both NATO and Norway know which operations Norwegian jets were involved in,” Eide continued. “We stand together, and it would be wrong to comment on individual assignments.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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