Libya 2011

Canadian, Lt.-Gen. Charles Bouchard commanded the NATO military campaign in Libya.

Canada played a significant role in the 2011 NATO attack on Libya. A Canadian general led the bombing campaign, seven CF-18 fighter jets participated and two Canadian naval vessels patrolled the Libyan coast. Canadian special forces were also likely on the ground. On February 28, 2011, CTV.ca reported “that Canadian special forces are also on the ground in Libya.” Apparently, JTF2 were dispatched to that country in contravention of international law and UN Security Council resolution 1973, which was adopted on March 17, 2011. Resolution 1973 authorized a no-fly zone over Libya but explicitly forbade “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.”

NATO forces explicitly contravened the UN resolutions sanctioning a no-fly zone by dispatching troops and expanding the bombing far beyond protecting civilians. Canada also defied UN resolution 1970 and 1973 by selling drones to the rebels.

The NATO bombing campaign was justified based on exaggerations and outright lies about the Gaddafi regime’s human rights violations. In the lead-up to the NATO intervention, the rebels accused Gaddafi’s forces of mass rape, a charge repeated by Western media and politicians. Canadian foreign minister John Baird was still repeating the mass rape justification for bombing Libya months after Gaddafi was killed. At the end of 2011 he told CTV: “When you talk about rape as an instrument of war, women being raped in Libya, it’s a very uncomfortable issue. Just ignoring it, throwing it under the carpet, it’s not an option.” But did Gaddafi’s forces engage in mass rape? Probably not, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International investigators. Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera, who was in Libya for three months after the start of the uprising, said: “We have not found any evidence or a single victim of rape or a doctor who knew about somebody being raped.” Liesel Gerntholtz, head of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, concurred. “We have not been able to find evidence [of mass rape].”

One of the main incidents that justified the intervention was the claim that on February 21, 2011, Libyan helicopters and fighter jets fired and dropped bombs on civilians. Without any video proof Qatar’s Al Jazeera broadcast these accusations, which were picked up by much of the Western media. Some even talked of genocide. During a high profile post-war celebration Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeated a variation of this claim. “The Gaddafi regime responded, unleashing the full fury of the state — police, army and air force — against them, calling all who protested ‘germs, rats, scumbags and cockroaches,’ and demanded Libya be cleansed ‘house by house’. It was an invitation to genocide.”

But, what’s the evidence for this accusation? Researchers from both the International Crisis Group (ICG) and Amnesty International couldn’t find any evidence that Gaddafi’s forces fired on civilians from fighter jets or helicopters. In June 2011 the ICG explained: “There are grounds for questioning the more sensational reports that the regime was using its air force to slaughter demonstrators, let alone engaging in anything remotely warranting use of the term ‘genocide.’”

Libya remains divided into various warring factions and hundreds of militias operate in the country of 6 million.