Yesterday, I noted how two top UN Officials aired some very serious accusations of war crimes committed by Qaddafi loyalists. This includes, among other things, the alleged use of cluster munitions in Misrata — a crowded city — and the deliberate targeting of hospitals and other civilian structures.
It would appear, however, that Qaddafi’s troops are not the only ones engaged in indiscriminate shelling. The New York Times’ CJ Chivers posted a very important dispatch from the rebel front in Libya in which he broadly describes rebel fighters as undisciplined and incompetent fighters, often armed with antique weapons.
Of course, being a bad soldier with an old gun is not a war crime. But this might be:
These include anti-aircraft missiles and land mines, both of which the rebels have used on at least a limited basis so far, and which pose long-term regional security threats. They include as well heavier weapons — Type 63 and Grad rockets — that rebels have fired indiscriminately, endangering civilians and civilian infrastructure…
And so could this:
They have exhibited what seems to be a tolerance for at least a small number of child soldiers. Such was the case of Mohamed Abdulgader, a 13-year-old boy seen at a forward checkpoint earlier this month with an assault rifle in his grip.
Mohamed claimed not be a front-line fighter. But he was in area that within an hour came under fire, and made clear his readiness to fight. “If the Qaddafi men try to do anything to me, I will hurt them,” he said. None of the fighters present, or their commander, appeared concerned.
Journalists have seen these high-explosive munitions fired repeatedly, and often haphazardly. The rebels firing them typically have no evident communication with forward observers who might watch where their ordnance lands, and have shown no ability to adjust their aim.
In tactical terms, this is indiscriminate fire — the very behavior rebels and civilians have decried in the Qaddafi forces, albeit on a smaller scale.
Moreover, the rebels possess weapons, including land mines, that if used or not accounted for, could undermine their quest for international stature and support.
Needless to say, it would appear that the scale of the crimes that are being committed by the rebel fighters is much smaller than by Qaddafi’s forces. But a war crime is a war crime. Civilians are the victims no-matter which side committed the crime.