In 2011, NATO orchestrated a war on Libya that was from the outset a war against the majority of the civilian population. Lessons learnt in Iraq, the Balkans and Afghanistan were rapidly put into effect. These included:
- The freezing and seizing of Libya’s vast financial assets
- Sanctions which quickly resulted in shortage of medicines and medical supplies and a deterioration of the water supply caused by lack of spare parts, chemicals and electricity generation.
By July 2011 the health crisis was such that the United Nations Sanctions Committee was requested to approve the release of €100 million, from the Central Bank of Libya to WHO to ensure the provision of essential medicines, vaccines and medical supplies for the whole of the country.
- A comprehensive naval blockade which prevented the import of civilian goods and fuel
- Destruction and disabling of civilian infrastructure including electricity facilities; fuel depots and pipelines; food stores; water and sanitation plants (including the great man-made river); schools; universities; hospitals and countless civilian homes
By August the price of food was rocketing and the residents of Tripoli were suffering from shortages in petrol, electricity and cooking fuel.
- Carpet-bombing of towns and cities. The town of Sirte was almost completely destroyed by NATO bombing and rebel forces.
“There is no food, there is no medicine, and every night, for five or six hours, NATO bombs all sorts of buildings,” Sami Abderraman, 64, told the Spanish daily El Pais as he sought to leave Sirte. “Hundreds of women and children have died like animals.”
There was also evidence that uranium weapons were being used.
Despite the recent election, Libya remains violent, fractured and traumatised.
According to UNHRC, since February 2011, more than 900,000 people have left the country. Most were third-country nationals, but more than 660,000 Libyans have also fled. In addition, an estimated 200,000 people were internally displaced and there are currently around 74 000 IDPs.
Black Libyans and African guest workers have been systematically lynched and entire towns and villages have been displaced by the conflict. The population of Tawargha, estimated at 30,000, was driven out by Misratah militias and remains scattered across Libya, many stranded camps in Tripoli and Benghazi.
There are estimated to be around 20 000 weapons (small arms) circulating freely in the country resulting in both deliberate and accidental death and injury (i.e. through the celebratory firing of weapons into the air).
There are vast amounts of unexploded ordnance (UXO) which pose a daily danger to civilians, especially children. The contamination is most serious in Sirte, Brega and Ras Lanuf. A MAG team member stated: “I have worked in DR Congo and Gaza and I would say the contamination in Sirte is the worst I have ever seen…”
In the 2011 UNDP Human Development Index, Libya was listed 53 out of 169 countries and placed in the high human development category. Read more on Libya’s standard of living under the former government.