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Armed conflict in Libya

Following the successful toppling of leaders in Tunisia and Egypt via peaceful demonstrations in early 2011, Libyan protesters also took to the streets in February 2011 demanding that Colonel Gaddafi step down from power. Within days of the start of the uprising, his opponents took control of the oil-rich eastern part of the country, which also saw the most intense fighting. Leaders of the uprising announced they had formed a "national council" in the East, which they claimed not to constitute an interim government, however. A disputed number of mercenaries are reportedly employed by Colonel Gaddafi as part of his army of supporters, as well as possibly African migrants.

Gaddafi's violent response to protesters was strongly condemned by the international community, with the UN Human Rights Council ordering an inquiry into alleged abuses and Libya subsequently suspended from this body. The United States unilaterally imposed sanctions on Libya on 25 February 2011. The next day, the UN Security Council unanimously voted in favour of an arms embargo and asset freeze against the country, while also referring the situation to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity perpetrated against protesters (Resolution 1970 of 2011). In a 11 March 2011 declaration, the European Union (EU) called for the rapid holding of a summit between the Arab League, the African Union and the EU. The Arab League called on the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya, arguing that Gaddafi had been using aircraft to combat civilian protesters.

On 17 March 2011, acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council authorized the use of "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya. On 31 March 2011, NATO officially took command of operations in Libya.

Coalition country contribution to military operations in Libya
See also: "Libya no-fly zone: Coalition firepower", BBC News, 21 October 2011

Further reading: "Libya: Strategy of scorched earth, desire for widespread and systematic elimination", International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), 24 February 2011 (also available in French) and "Update on African Mercenaries: Have Darfur Rebels Joined Qaddafi's Mercenary Defenders?", Jamestown Foundation, 24 February 2011 and Julian M. Lehmann, "All Necessary Means to Protect Civilians: What the Intervention in Libya Says About the Relationship Between the Jus in Bello and the Jus ad Bellum", Journal of Conflict and Security Law (Spring 2012), pp. 117-146

In July 2011, the International Contact Group on Libya, made up of NATO and Arab League countries and other nations, recognised the National Transitional Council (NTC) as the legitimate government of Libya. On 22 August 2011, rebel forces entered Tripoli and on 20 October 2011, Gaddafi was confirmed killed. Three days later, the NTC declard Libya "liberated" and NATO officially ended its mission on 31 October 2011. The conflict has reportedly cost the lives of between 12,700 and 25,000 people and caused around 900,000 to become refugees. The number of civilian casualties due to NATO airstrikes remains contested.

See also: "Counting the cost of Nato's mission in Libya", BBC News, 31 October 2011, "In Strikes on Libya by NATO, an Unspoken Civilian Toll", The New York Times, 17 December 2011 and "NATO: Investigate Civilian Deaths in Libya", Human Rights Watch, 14 May 2012

Last updated: 22 November 2012

   
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