Warring Libyan forces must allow humanitarian aid to reach Sirte
All parties to Libya’s armed conflict must act to spare civilians and ensure that urgently needed supplies can be delivered safely to Sirte, Amnesty International said today amid reports that the humanitarian situation in the coastal city is rapidly worsening. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was able to visit Sirte on Saturday, where they described severe shortages of medical and other supplies while indiscriminate fire continues to put residents at risk. The ICRC team brought the first humanitarian aid since the city came under siege in mid-September.An ICRC team was unable to carry out a visit today due to the security situation.“Forces on both sides must take necessary precautions to spare civilians and must immediately set up humanitarian corridors to ensure that urgently needed supplies can be delivered safely to Sirte residents,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International. “All civilians who want to leave Sirte should be allowed to do so immediately in dignity and safety.”Establishing humanitarian corridors would include setting up neutral zones and negotiated routes that are clearly defined to give humanitarian workers safe access to the sick and injured. Media reports have described how civilians trapped in Sirte have been endangered by ongoing fighting and surviving on dwindling medical supplies, food, fuel and water.Sirte’s main hospital, Ibn Sina, reportedly came under fire over the weekend.“All those involved in the fighting have legal obligations to spare civilians by ending immediately the use of indiscriminate weapons like GRAD rockets, and not firing artillery and mortars into residential areas,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.International humanitarian law prohibits the use of weapons that are inherently indiscriminate or which cannot be targeted at military objectives.Amnesty International has collected evidence that Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s forces committed war crimes throughout the conflict, including by carrying out attacks targeting civilians and indiscriminate attacks. They launched artillery, mortar and rocket attacks against residential areas, and used inherently indiscriminate weapons such as anti-personnel mines and cluster bombs. They also concealed tanks and heavy military equipment in residential buildings.The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has accused pro-Gaddafi forces of using civilians as shields in Sirte.Anti-Gaddafi forces have been found to use GRAD rockets, which pose a lethal danger to populated areas because they are unguided. “The NTC, which has publicly committed to respect international human rights and humanitarian law, must ensure that anti-Gaddafi forces respect these norms and to also avoid revenge attacks and other reprisals,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.