In 2011, multiple Arab countries saw political uprisings in a movement that became known as the Arab Spring. In Libya, this uprising led to a months-long war with international involvement and high civilian casualties. With the high number of civilian casualties, some raised concerns about genocide being a part of this conflict. Going through the facts of the conflict will help to determine whether there was a Libyan genocide.
- Anti-government protests began on February 15, 2011 in Benghazi. Following the Libyan security crackdown on the protest, demonstrations continued and spread throughout the week.
- Responses to protests became more violent, with security forces and aircraft firing into crowds. At least 500 civilians were killed. By February 21, Libya’s deputy U.N. representative called on Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi to resign due to what the representative stated was a Libyan genocide.
- International leaders began cutting off Gadhafi and the Libyan government from assets and imposed sanctions on the country.
- On March 17, the U.N. Security Council voted for a no-fly zone over Libya and called upon member states to take “all necessary measures…to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat.”
- Libyan forces laid siege to the city of Misrata from March to May, cutting off all contact and food supplies to the city.
- In early May, an International Criminal Court prosecutor announced that he would be seeking arrest warrants in connection to the deaths of pro-democracy activists. These warrants were officially requested on May 16 for Gadhafi, his son and his brother-in-law.
- An article in The Guardian from June 18 reports that lawyers in Misrata had documentation of orders from Gadhafi to lay siege to the city in response to opposition. The lawyers planned to give the documents to war crimes investigators when it was safe to enter the city.
- On October 20, Muammar Gadhafi was captured and killed in his hometown of Sirte, Libya. While some skirmishes continued, this effectively ended this war.
- On October 23, three days after Gadhafi’s death, Libya’s interim leaders declared freedom. During the following week, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to end military operations in Libya. NATO forces pulled out of the country and a new acting prime minister was elected.
- The arrest warrant for Muammar Gadhafi was rescinded in November due to his death. Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of Muammar, was captured by fighters that same month, but has not been seen since 2014. He was sentenced to death in absentia in July 2015 by a court in Tripoli.
The warfare and civilian casualties seen in Libya in 2011 led to war crimes investigations. Despite this, the actions taken by Gadhafi during the conflict did not meet the criteria set forth in the U.N. Genocide Convention. This is because the fighting was based around political ideological groups and differences within the country, and not national, ethnical, racial or religious groups. Unless other evidence arises, it does not appear there was a Libyan genocide in 2011.
– Erik Beck