New evidence indicates the use of controversial cluster bomb ammunition in Libya, according to a report filed by Human Rights Watch on Sunday. The bombs reportedly impacted near Libya Dawn-held positions, though the internationally recognised government in Tobruk denied any responsibility.
HRW based its report on eyewitness accounts and photographs indicating recent use of the weapons, dating it back to February for an attack on Bin Jawad, and March for impacts near Sirte and Watiya. However the report stated that the available evidence does not allow them to “determine responsibilities”.
Libyan Air Force commander Saqr Al-Jerroushi told HRW that his forces had carried out air strikes during that time at the named places, but denied that the government forces had cluster ammunition at their disposal at all.
According to several NGOs, Libya stockpiled cluster ammunition during the reign of Muammar Gaddafi and used it in the war against Chad in 1987 and during the uprising of 2011. Due to a lack of controls by national and international authorities after the revolution, huge arms stockpiles remained unchecked, resulting in uncontrolled arms proliferation and likely giving access to cluster ammunition to both sides in the Libyan civil war.
Cluster ammunition has been banned by a total of 116 countries in the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) that entered into force in 2010, but since the convention lacks the signatures of the main arms exporters and UN Security Council members – the United States, Russia and China – it lacks enforceability.
According to Reuters news agency, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini expressed her wish on Sunday to draw up proposals for an EU mission involving military personnel or ships, should the peace talks between the rivalling factions led by UN envoy Bernardino Leon succeed. The EU Foreign Council is set to discuss the issue later on Monday.
Libya’s civil war has been intensifying since militant group Libya Dawn seized the capital Tripoli in 2014 and forced the internationally-recognised government to flee to Tobruk. The increasingly chaotic situation led to “Islamic State”-related groups taking a foothold in Libya and consecutive attacks by the Egyptian air force against these groups last month.