The Libyan National Army (LNA) has been found to be using the banned cluster munitions in a residential area in Tripoli as it wage war against the government in total disregard for the safety of civilians, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
The LNA, under the command of General Khalifa Hiftar, have been battling forces of the United Nations-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) for control of Tripoli, the capital.
“Using cluster munitions shows reckless disregard for the safety of civilians,” said Stephen Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition. “Cluster munitions should never be used by anyone under any circumstances due to the foreseeable and unacceptable harm for civilians.”
The LNA or their international supporters carried out an airstrike on or around December 02 in a residential area adjacent to al-Asfah road near the Airport Road in the southern suburbs of Tripoli. There were no reports of casualties.
Human Rights Watch visited the site on December 17 and found remnants of two RBK-250 PTAB 2.5M cluster bombs, as well as evidence that high-explosive air-dropped bombs were also used in the attack. The area was not known to be contaminated by cluster munitions before the attack.
The 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions comprehensively prohibits cluster munitions and requires their clearance as well as assistance to victims. Libya has not joined the treaty, but all parties to the armed conflict in Libya should abide by the emerging norm it establishes against any use of cluster munitions in any circumstances.
Cluster munitions have been banned because of their widespread indiscriminate effect and long-lasting danger to civilians. They typically explode in the air and send dozens, even hundreds, of small bomblets over an area the size of a football field. Cluster submunitions often fail to explode on initial impact, leaving duds that act like landmines.
On February 05, Human Rights Watch emailed the office of the LNA spokesperson seeking comment on the findings of the use of cluster munitions in a residential area. Human Rights Watch did not receive a response.
During the December 17 site visit, Human Rights Watch interviewed two men who said they were there during the attack. Both men were members of an armed force under the Tripoli-based GNA who were guarding a checkpoint on a main road al-Asfah running through the residential area. The men said there had been no casualties from the attack.
One of the men, who asked not to be named, said that most residents had left the area after months of sustained fighting. But he said that a cluster munition had landed in the yard of a man of about 80, who had refused to leave his home. The guard said the attack was sudden and that he heard the strong explosions of what he believes were the bombs landing in the field.
A researcher found remnants of two cluster munitions and the small but distinctive impact craters of multiple explosive submunitions.
The intended target of the attack is unclear. (Source: HRW)