Libya

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 02 August 2017

Summary: Non-signatory Libya has expressed its support for the convention and interest in joining, but has not taken any steps towards accession. Libya has participated in several meetings of the convention, most recently in September 2016, and it voted in favor of a key UN resolution on the convention in December 2016.

Libya is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions, but it imported them and possess a stockpile. Cluster munitions were used during inter-militia fighting in late 2014 and early 2015 as well as in 2011 by government forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. Evidence of possible use by the Libyan air force in 2016 and the first half of 2017 could not be independently verified by the Monitor.

Policy

Libya has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Libya has expressed its support for the convention and interest in joining, but has not taken any steps toward accession.[1] Previously, in September 2012, Libya informed States Parties that it was “committed” to promoting the convention.[2]

Since December 2015, the UN recognized a Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya that resulted from a UN-facilitated political process. However, the GNA’s functioning has been impaired by continued hostilities between two major factions to the political agreement that formed the GNA: the House of Representatives allied with General Khalifa Hiftar in the east of Libya, who commands the Libya National Army (LNA), and an alliance of militias known as the Libyan Dawn coalition that controls much of western Libya. In addition, numerous smaller militias also control or contest territory in certain parts of the country.

In December 2016, Libya voted in favor of a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that calls on states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.”[3] Libya also voted in favor of the first UNGA resolution on the convention in December 2015.[4]

Under the former government of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya participated in three regional conferences held during the 2007–2008 Oslo Process that developed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but attended the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008 only as an observer and did not join in the consensus adoption of the convention.[5] Libya did not attend the Oslo Signing Conference in December 2008.

Libya participated as an observer in the convention’s annual Meeting of States Parties in 2010, 2012–2013, and the Sixth Meeting of States Party in Geneva in September 2016. It attended the convention’s First Review Conference in 2015 and has participated in regional workshops on cluster munitions, most recently in Lomé, Togo, in May 2013. 

Libya has voted in favor of UNGA resolutions expressing outrage at the use of cluster munitions in Syria, most recently in December 2016.[6]

Libya is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty. It is also not a party to the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Production, transfer, and stockpiling

Libya is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions, but it imported and stockpiles them. 

The current status and composition of Libya’s stockpiled cluster munitions is not known, including information on the types, quantities, and storage locations.Portions of the stockpile of cluster munitions may have been seized by anti-government forces and civilians in 2011, after storage facilities at arms depots were abandoned by government forces and subjected to NATO airstrikes. There has been no systematic or coordinated stockpile destruction effort by successive interim governments or international actors.

From the use of cluster munitions in recent years, it is clear that Libya has stockpiled air-dropped bombs (RBK-series bombs containing AO-1SCh and PTAB-2.5M bomblets), ground-fired munitions (MAT-120 mortar projectiles containing submunitions), and an unidentified type of submunition contained in Grad-type 122mm surface-to-surface rockets.[7] Additionally, in the past, Jane’s Information Group listed Libya as possessing KMGU dispensers (which deploy submunitions) and RBK-500 cluster bombs.[8]

In June 2011, Spain confirmed that it transferred a total of 1,055 MAT-120 cluster munitions containing 22,155 submunitions to Libya in 2006 and 2008.[9]

Use

Evidence continues to emerge indicating that Libyan National Army (LNA) forces used cluster munitions in 2016 and the first half of 2017. An aviation-focused blog reported the following incidents:

  • Photographs published online in March 2016 and credited to the LNA indicate LNA forces may have used cluster munitions at least twice that month.[10]
  • A photograph reportedly taken on 15 August 2016 at Benina airbase in Benghazi shows an RBK-250–270 PTAB 2.5M cluster bomb mounted on a MiG-21 fighter aircraft.[11]
  • Photographs reportedly taken on three different days in September 2016 show RBK-250 cluster bombs being mounted on a Mi-8t helicopters and a MiG-21 aircraft of the LNA/Air Force. Reportedly these aircraft then flew sorties to the Benghazi enclave of Ganfouda.[12]
  • A photograph reportedly taken on 4 February 2017 at the Benina airbase shows at least seven RBK 250 PTAB-2.5M and RBK-250-275 AO-1SCh lying on the tarmac. The “bombing location” is listed as “Benghazi-al-Sabri.”[13]

Two videos reportedly taken at Benina airbase on 3 March 2017 show LNA technicians mounting two RBK-250 cluster bombs on two LNA aircraft that then allegedly flew sorties to Brega, Ras Lanuf, and Sidra.[14] Further evidence of cluster munition use may have gone unrecorded due to a lack of media and independent reporting from the ground.

The Monitor was not able to independently verify and confirm this evidence of possible use.

Previous use in 2014–2015

Previously, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented the LNA use of cluster bombs in Bin Jawad on or about 9 January 2015, in Bin Jawad on 18 December 2014, and in Sirte in December 2014 or the first quarter of 2015.[15] The Libyan air force admitted attacking Libya Dawn forces at both locations in early 2015, but at the time Brig. Gen. al-Jerroushi denied that forces under his command used cluster bombs.[16] 

More than two-dozen states have expressed concern over or condemned new use of cluster munitions, including eight that specifically expressed concern over the evidence of new cluster munition use in Libya.[17] The UN, ICRC, and CMC also condemned the use of cluster munitions. In March 2015, Sweden described evidence of new use of cluster munitions in Libya as a “worrisome development” and said, “Libya must join the CCM [Convention on Cluster Munitions].”[18]

In September 2016, States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions issued a joint declaration stating that they “condemn any use by any actor” and expressing deep concern at “any and all allegations, reports or documented evidence of the use of cluster munitions.”[19] Previously, in September 2015, States Parties adopted the Dubrovnik Declaration, which affirms: “We are deeply concerned by any and all allegations, reports or documented evidence of the use of cluster munitions, including in Cambodia, Libya, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine and Yemen. We condemn any use of cluster munitions by any actor.”[20]

Previous use in 2011

Government forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi used three different types of cluster munitions at various locations during the 2011 conflict: MAT-120 cluster munition mortar projectiles in Misrata in April, RBK-250 PTAB-2.5M cluster bombs in Ajdabiya in March, and DPICM-like submunitions delivered by 122mm cargo rockets in the Nafusa Mountains near Jadu and Zintan on an unknown date.[21] At least 10 states and the European Union expressed concern over or condemned the use of cluster munitions in Libya in 2011.[22]

There is no evidence of cluster munition use by the countries involved in the NATO military action in in Libya in 2011, including by the United States (US) and other states that have not yet joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions. In its formal response to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Libya, NATO confirmed that it did not use cluster munitions in the Libya operation.[23] However, NATO airstrikes on ammunition storage facilities created hazards when munitions stored by Libya, including cluster munitions, were ejected into the surrounding environment.[24]

Previous use before 2010 

Libyan forces used air-delivered cluster munitions, likely RBK-series cluster bombs containing AO-1SCh and PTAB-2.5 submunitions, at various locations during its intervention in Chad during the 1986–1987 conflict.[25] 

US Navy aircraft attacked Libyan ships using Mk.-20 Rockeye cluster bombs on 25 March 1986, while US Navy aircraft dropped 60 Rockeye bombs on Benina airfield on 14–15 April 1986.[26] 

In November 2009, a commercial oil company survey crew in Libya found remnants of a German World War II-era SD-2 “butterfly bomb” (an early version of a cluster bomb) and an explosive ordnance disposal expert subsequently identified six more such cluster munition remnants.[27]



[1] In October 2014, Libya informed a UN meeting that it is considering joining international treaties on conventional weapons but did not specifically mention the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Statement of Libya, UN General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, New York, 8 October 2014.

[2] Statement of Libya, Convention on Cluster Munitions Third Meeting of States Parties, Oslo, 12 September 2012. Notes by the CMC.

[3]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 71/45, 5 December 2016.

[4]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 70/54, 7 December 2015.

[5] At the Livingstone Conference on Cluster Munitions in April 2008, Libya endorsed the Livingstone Declaration, which called on African states to support the negotiation of a “total and immediate” prohibition on cluster munitions. At the Kampala Conference on the Convention on Cluster Munitions in September 2008, Libya endorsed the Kampala Action Plan, which called on all African states to sign and ratify the convention as soon as possible. For more details on Libya’s cluster munition policy and practice up to early 2009, see Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), pp. 220–221.

[6]Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 71/203, 19 December 2016. Libya voted in favor of similar resolutions in 2013–2015.

[7] See also, HRW, “Libya: Evidence of New Cluster Bomb Use,” 15 March 2015.

[8] Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004), p. 842.

[9] The transfer took place before Spain instituted a moratorium on export of cluster munitions and prior to its adoption of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Statement of Spain, Convention on Cluster Munitions Intersessional Meetings, Geneva, 29 June 2011. In the statement, Spain confirmed information provided to The New York Times by the Deputy Director General for Foreign Trade of Defense Materials and Dual Use Goods, Ramon Muro Martinez, that: “One license to Lybia [sic] consisting of 5 cluster munitions for demonstration was issued in August 2006. The export took place in October 2006. There were two more licenses issued in December 2007 with a total amount of 1,050 cluster munitions. They were sent in March 2008.” C.J. Chivers, “Following Up, Part 2. Down the Rabbit Hole: Arms Exports and Qaddafi’s Cluster Bombs,” The New York Times – At War Blog, 22 June 2011.

[10] Photographs reportedly taken late on the evening of 28 March 2016 show RBK-250 cluster bombs being mounted on Mi-8T and Mi-35 helicopters at Labraq airbase in the eastern city of Beida. Arnaud Delalande, “‘Libyan airstrikes’ situation update 26–28 March 2016,” AeroHistory blog, 29 March 2016. A photograph reportedly taken late in the evening of 8 March 2016 at Benina airbase in Benghazi shows an RBK-250-275 AO-1SCh cluster bomb mounted on a Mi-8T helicopter. Arnaud Delalande, “Libyan National Army used night vision systems and RBK-250 cluster bombs on its helicopters for night combat missions,” AeroHistory blog, 10 March 2016.

[12] Arnaud Delalande, “Libyan National Army still loads its Mi-8s with cluster bombs,” AeroHistory blog, 12 September 2016; Arnaud Delalande, “Libyan MiG-23ML has dropped two RBK-250s cluster bombs in Oil Crescend area today,” AeroHistory blog, 14 September 2016; and Arnaud Delalande, “Libyan CBU monitoring,” AeroHistory blog, 15 September 2016.

[13] Arnaud Delalande, “Libyan CBU monitoring,” AeroHistory blog, 9 July 2017.

[14] Arnaud Delalande, “Libyan CBU monitoring,” AeroHistory blog, 3 March 2016.

[15] Amnesty International, “Libya: Mounting evidence of war crimes in the wake of Egypt’s airstrikes,” 23 February 2015. HRW found that the good condition of the paint on the bomb casings and lack of extensive weathering indicated that the remnants had not been exposed to the environment for long and were from a recent attack. See, HRW, “Libya: Evidence of New Cluster Bomb Use,” 15 March 2015.

[16] HRW, “Libya: Evidence of New Cluster Bomb Use,” 15 March 2015.

[17] Including Austria, Burundi, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ecuador, Ireland, Luxembourg, and New Zealand.

[18] SwedenArmsControl (@SweArmsControl), “Recent evidence of Cluster Munitions use in Libya HRW report shows. Worrisome development, Libya must join the CCM,” 04.39am, 16 March 2015, Tweet.

[19] See the political declaration annexed to the “Final report of the Convention on Cluster Munitions Sixth Meeting of States Parties, Geneva, 5–7 September 2016,” CCM/MSP/2016/9, 30 September 2016.

[20]The Dubrovnik declaration 2015: Spectemur agendo (judged by our actions),” annexed to the Final Report of the First Review Conference of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, CCM/CONF/2015/7, 13 October 2015.

[21] See, ICBL-CMC, “Country Profile: Libya: Cluster Munition Ban Policy,” 17 December 2012.

[22] The Monitor has recorded national statements by Australia, Austria, Burundi, Costa Rica, Croatia, France, Iceland, Italy, Lao PDR, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

[23] NATO letter to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Libya, 15 February 2011. Cited in UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, “Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Libya,” A /HRC/19/68, 2 March 2012, p. 168, para. 638.

[24] Submunitions were also ejected from ammunition storage bunkers at a military depot near the town of Mizdah, 160 kilometers south of Tripoli, which was attacked by NATO aircraft more than 50 times between April and July 2011. In March 2012, HRW visited the depot and found approximately 15 PTAB-2.5M bomblets and about three-dozen submunitions of an unidentified DPICM type. Statement by HRW, Convention on Conventional Weapons Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War, Geneva, 25 April 2012.

[25] Handicap International, Circle of Impact: The Fatal Footprint of Cluster Munitions on People and Communities (Brussels: HI, May 2007), p. 48.

[26] Daniel P. Bolger, Americans at War: 1975–1986, An Era of Violent Peace (Novato, CA.: Presidio Press, 1988), p. 423.

[27] Daily report by Jan-Ole Robertz, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technical Advisor, Countermine Libya, 27 November 2009.