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The Libyan Civil War is a protracted Civil War that began with the Arab Spring movement in 2011 when protestors were involved in civil society unrest in the beginning of 2011 and became more complex with time as a number of militia organisations and foreign countries became involved in the conflict. In 2019, the Civil War took a more serious turn with both sides to the conflict being backed by different foreign countries thus encouraging the continuance of the Civil War. This study seeks to increase understanding of the involvement of the international community in the Civil War in Libya, the reasons for such involvement, and the effects of such involvement for the continuance of the Civil War. The study finds that the Civil War in Libya was made more prolonged and more deadly because of the involvement of the foreign countries that encouraged different warring factions within Libya. At the same time, the study finds that despite the internationalization of the conflict, there was no application of the international humanitarian law because none of the parties involved accepted that the internationalization of the war meant the existence of an international armed conflict. The result of this was that while the war became internationalized, the conditions of the war and between the warring factions were never governed by the international humanitarian law, which makes the war even deadlier for the civilians as well as the warring factions involved.
The Libyan Civil War is a protracted and deadly conflict that began with the events of the Arab Spring in Libya in February 2011. The Arab Spring was a movement of the people of different countries in the Middle Eastern Arab countries where people were demanding political changes in their respective countries. In countries like Egypt, Syria and Libya, the movements involved protests by civilians against the state and government. However, in most countries where Arab Spring took place the subsequent developments led to some political changes whereas in Libya, what started as civilian protests led to full scale Civil War and ultimately the death of the country’s leader and more political instability. The death of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 led to widespread political instability in Libya, a country which had been swept up in protests in the Arab spring. In the years before, Libya had celebrated political stability and economic success heavily relying on the oil industry, which produced significant amount of crude oil on a daily basis (Goodwin, 2011). The Arab spring, anti-government protests whose ideologies originated from the need for democracy and raising the standards of living amongst citizens of Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Bahrain, also led to the death of many regimes (El-Katiri et al., 2014). In many of these countries, the Arab Spring led to the ushering in of new governance or adoption of new laws that were more in line with what the people of these countries were demanding. However, these results were not obtained in all of the countries that saw involvement of the people in the Arab Spring. Libya is an outlier in these group of countries that witnessed the Arab Spring because the conflict spiralled out of control and led to not only the end of the regime but also the end of political stability for a long time as the country devolved into a Civil War.
In Libya, instead of achieving the intended purpose of ushering in new political changes, respect for human rights, and political stability, the Arab spring let to the birth of ethnic groups, militia, and rival governments all whom were loyal to different religious and political ideologies, ethnicities and showed allegiance to different leaders (Anderson, 2011). The war, which has led to the death of a significant number of civilians and government fighters, has also led to loss of income and massive destruction of infrastructure in the county. The war has also led to the involvement of various organizations and international communities who supported various groups and leaders who were vying for the control of Libya (El-Katiri et al., 2014). In literature, there has been significant criticism of the involvement of the international community because it has been argued that instead of reducing the conflict and bringing in stability, the involvement of the international communities only led to the worsening of the Civil War and causing more damage and fatalities in Libya (Chivvis, 2015; Daw, El-Bouzedi, & Dau, 2015; Diatta, Woldemichael, & Toupane, 2019; PSC Report, 2019 ). Therefore, there is an argument made out against internationalisation of domestic conflict such as in Libya because it is thought to be more damaging to prospects of peace and political stability as involvement of international community and organisations leads to further fragmentation and therefore protracts the conflict (Diatta, Woldemichael, & Toupane, 2019; PSC Report, 2019). This is in line with theory on internationalization of domestic conflict, that generally argues that such internationalization can lead to the protraction of the war (Falk & McNemar, 1971). Therefore, the Libyan Civil War and the internationalization of the domestic conflict is worth considering in greater detail to understand whether the argument is justified in the case of Libya.
The involvement of various international communities and international organizations came about in response to protect civilian lives and an appeal by various upcoming leaders to be supported. These communities included the United Nations, whose main interest was to protect civilian lives, the Egyptian government, and NATO, ISIL, Russia, France and Arab nations (Serwer, 2011). To understand the involvement of international communities in Libya, it is important to establish the significance of Libya as an economic stronghold and as a geographically strategic location (El-Katiri et al., 2014). Libya’s economy mainly depends on revenue collected as a result of exportation of oil, petroleum products, and natural gasses. This accounts for more than 95% of its exports and earns the country 60% of its gross revenues. Revenue collected from oil export with a population of just over six million citizens had facilitated Libya’s high profit margin against their expenditure, making Libya amongst the top most economically strong countries in Africa. Oil reserves in Libya are ranked the largest in Africa and the 10th largest in the whole globe. In its glory days, Libya was the highest contributor and a part of the prestigious Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries alongside thirteen other nations. These countries produce 40% of the world’s petroleum (Bahgat, 2004). Libya saw favorable growth in its GDP in the year 2010. However, that economic growth was sabotaged after the war broke out in the country termed the first war of Libya. In response the economy shrank by over 60% in the following year. A slight growth was again recorded in the year 2012 however that crashed in the succeeding years; the country’s economic growth has never been back to where it was before the war broke out as it stands at half of what it was in its former glory (Hossein-Zadeh, 2009). Prior to the war Libya also boasted a high rate of literacy standing at 87% owing to the government’s free but compulsory education system.
The internationalization of the Civil War in Libya is considered to be a reason for why the war was protracted and why it had such devastating effects over a long period of time (Zamir, 2017; Asseburg, Lacher, & Transfeld, 2018). The Libyan Civil war has continued over a number of years since 2011 and has seen the participation of a number of militia groups over time; in the latest round of civil war, the Libyan National Army (LNA) under Khalifa Haftar and the UN backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli have been involved in the conflict. The ways in which the external nations have been involved in Libya has been explained as follows:
“Military involvement of the West (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and members of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC), Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar, which led to the downfall of the Libyan government in 2011, marked the beginning of foreign intervention in Libya. Although this multi-state military intervention officially ended with Gaddafi’s death, several countries continue to be involved in Libya’s crisis. This is due to competition for access to the country’s oil resources and ports in the Mediterranean, supporting the war against various terrorist groups, European efforts to control the use of Libya as a migrant route and regional geostrategic competition among Gulf powers. Neighbouring countries with security interests in Libya are also involved” (PSC Report, 2019 ).
Thus, the Libyan conflict is not yet over and has continued for more than 9 years since the first protests against the Libyan government began as part of the Arab Spring movement (PSC Report, 2019 ). The repercussions of the foreign involvement in Libyan Civil War are serious because this has led to the prolonging of the war as foreign governments have supplied military support to the parties thus fueling the conflict (PSC Report, 2019 ). The supply of military support has encouraged the parties involved in the conflict and created a major humanitarian crisis in Libya with severe implications for human rights of the civilians as well as the parties involved in the conflict. Added to that is the problem of non application of the international humanitarian law because of the indirect nature of the foreign involvement which does not quite lead to the recognition of an international armed conflict within which the international humanitarian law becomes applicable (Zamir, 2017; Dessì, 2015). There are other serious effects of the protracted Civil War in Libya including the proliferation of arms and the increase in terrorism activities with the involvement of the Islamic State; in the end, the Civil War has had severe implications for the human rights and humanitarian conditions in Libya. The role of the international community is therefore worth considering because one of the reasons for the protraction of the Libyan Civil War is the involvement of the foreign countries in the Libyan Civil War.
The aim of this paper is to explore the involvement of international communities in the war in Libya and their contribution thereafter. This study focuses in detail on the interests of various international bodies; this includes both regional bodies and far spread communities. It aims to establish their political, economic and security related interests and determine how their contribution impacted the war and lives of the people in Libya. By comparing the involvement of the external communities against the results of the war over the past nine years, this paper will be able to determine if the impact has enabled the war and why or if it ended the war (Kuperman, 2015). Evidently this research focuses more on involvement, motives, and outcomes. The general aim of this paper is to determine participation of international communities in the war in Libya, to establish their contribution, motives and success or failure in ending the war.
To meet the above mentioned aim of this research, this study outlines four research objectives as stated below:
To establish if there was any need for the international communities to be involved in the war in Libya;
To identify the international organizations and countries involved in the war in Libya and explain their respective roles;
To measure the impact of the involvement of international communities on the economic and political outcomes of the war.
This study outlines important questions whose answers will meet the research objectives and eventually the aim of the research. This study critically explores if the participation of international organizations and communities in the war in Libya was justified. It also explores the ways in which international communities have contributed to the war since. It also inquires into the parties that were involved in the fight and how various activities they undertook impacted the war (Colgan., 2013). This paper also explores the interests of international communities and if their main objective was to end the war or stall the war and benefit from it. In relation to the above mentioned objectives of the research, this research paper fundamentally raises an overarching research question which is:
How has the participation of international organizations and countries impacted the war in Libya?
Over the last nine years, the war in Libya has led to significant loss of life and property, internal displacement of people and refugees having to live in deplorable conditions as a result of the war in Libya, and economic loss and hardship (Boose, 2012). Various reports indicate that an approximate number of 14,572 to 25,000 deaths took place in the first war (Daw, El-Bouzedi, & Dau, 2015). With more deaths going unreported and people still declared missing the figures could definitely be much higher. In the first war of Libya, the opposition stated that 25,000 people had been killed and about 4000 had been reported missing (Buckley, 2012). With the death toll soaring high, the United Nations Security Council in February of 2011 recognised that the widespread and organised attacks that were being done in Libya against the civil population were violations against human rights and could amount to crimes against humanity.
The African Journal of Emergency Medicine issued a report in 2015 on mortality, injury and population displacement which indicated that a total of 21,490 people a figure equivalent to 0.5% of the total population in Libya had been killed (Daw, El-Bouzedi, & Dau, 2015). 19,700, an equivalent of 0.47% of the population was injured and 435,000 an equivalent of 10.33% of the population in Libya were internally displaced (Daw, El-Bouzedi, & Dau, 2015). The recorded death rate was at 5.1% per thousand people and the injury rate stood at 4.7% per a thousand people. However, the death toll varied widely by region and was spread across the months and years following the outbreak of war in Libya (Sithole, 2012).
Libya, a country which had been previously considered the most accepting of migrants from various countries in North Africa, suffered massive internal displacement of its population. A significant number of people also migrated to other countries as refugees. As the war escalated, an estimated two million people fled to neighbouring countries mostly, Egypt, Italy, Algeria, and Tunisia, (Western & Goldstein, 2011). An additional 422,000 people who account for approximately 6.5% of Libya’s population and particularly people from areas of significant interest amongst fighters in the war in Libya were internally displaced. Over the years, the United Nations has termed the situation in Libya a humanitarian crisis, owing to the lives lost and the economic costs accrued during the war. Various communities have been involved in the fight as mediators, aid providers or in the protection of civilian lives. However, considering how long the war has dragged on and the amount of loss still being experienced years after their interventions the actual impact and motive of the involvement of international communities from the western, regional and Persian Gulf states needs to be established (Jentleson & Whytock 2006). This is crucial to understanding if the protracted war in Libya is due to the involvement of the international organisations or third countries.
The purpose of this preliminary literature review is to identify the principal debates, arguments and theories made out in academic literature related to the involvement of the international organisations and community in the civil war in Libya and to identify the gaps in the literature which are sought to be explored in the current study. This chapter investigates the f literature relating to the study, while giving relevant definitions of terms, principles, theories and legislations regarding the case study. It provides an understanding of the participation of various international organisations and countries in the Libyan war, the communities involved and how their involvement impacted the war. The findings on literature are provides thematically in the following sections.
According to Shaw (2013), the Arab spring, a political uprising, cultivated international interest into various issues affecting the lives of people amongst the nations involved. The Arab Spring was a movement that started spontaneously in different Arab countries on the Middle East and North Africa region wherein people rose against the incumbent governments in forms of street protests organised mostly on the basis of Social Media. Dupont and Passy (2011) have argued that political analysts were surprised by the events of the Arab Spring as these were unpredictable, took place in authoritarian regimes, that are repressive and have higher social control over the population, and were highly fragmented (Dupont & Passy, 2011). The Arab spring protests in Libya which began on 15th February 2011 as a response to the detainment of a human rights lawyer who represented the families of prisoners who were allegedly murdered by security personnel in Tripoli (Shaw 2013), quickly and unpredictably turned into widespread and sporadic protests, overwhelming security forces and eventually leading to the overthrow of the Libyan government (Strazzari 2014). What began as a need for change now became a revolution (Rayne et al., 2017). In the case of Libya, the analysts were surprised by the way in which the people uprising could take such strong and violent turn against a strong and repressive government. An interesting question that arises is how a small event led to such a major political upheaval in the Libyan society and polity.
Some explanations for the reasons why Libyan protests became so deadly are given in literature on the basis of the domestic factors. For instance, Bhardwaj argues that Libya descended into civil war for multifarious reasons including harsh government crackdowns, absence of a unified civil society, and application of alienation techniques. Ethnic and tribal differences are also mentioned as well as internationalisation of conflict with rebel forces being provided training by foreign forces (Bhardwaj, 2012). Therefore, while Bhardwaj (2012) claims internationalisation to be one of the factors, he emphasises more on domestic factors. Similar argument is made by Boose (2012) where he argues that a lack of unified civil society in Libya is one of the reasons why the Libyan situation devolved into a civil war (Boose, 2012). According to these explanations of the reasons why Libyan protests turned into civil war, the emphasis is on the domestic factors that are thought to be responsible for this state of affairs.
On the other hand, there are some writers who have noted the role played by the international society. The reasons why international community got involved in the first place are also given to explain why the Libyan domestic situation became internationalised so quickly. Notably, Buckley et al. (2012) point out that certain actions that prompted the involvement of international communities and organisations had to do with the violation of human rights. The violations were recorded in terms of torture, kidnappings, disappearances and killing of both local and international citizens in the country (Zifcak 2012). The most significant killings of international citizens in Libya during the uprising included the murder of international journalists. The killing of various journalists is particularly interesting as it reflects on need for government to silence them (Buckley 2012). Therefore, there is reason to believe that due to Libyan government actions, interests of the international community were aroused. These actions included the killing of Chad citizens in Libya (Merabti 2019); killing of 80 migrant workers of Chadian and Sudanese origin in an oil company by Libyans loyal to the opposition groups (Buckley 2012); and targetting of men were dark skin from the south of Libya (Giannattasio Nobres, 2019; Merabti ,2019). These events brought international attention to the events in Libya.
Other events that brought international attention to the events in Libya were the organised targeting and killing of Libyan protestors. Chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo provided an estimation that up to 700 individuals had been killed by security forces loyal to Gaddafi in February of 2011. This number excludes the number of people killed by rebel forces as it is recorded in the first month of the protest before the rebel groups were formed (Smith 2013). The Libyan government’s actions in systematically shooting and killing protesters in an effort to contain and respond to the protests. The Libyan government however denied claims that protesters were systematically shot and rather stated that soldiers acted in self-defence to protect themselves against attacks by the mobs (Volterra 2018). In Bani Walid Human Rights Watch reported that ten protesters, who had accepted surrender and agreed to put down their weapons and were not capable of harming the soldiers, were executed by the soldiers despite total surrender (Herbert 2014). These events in Libya exposed Libya to international censure which also pulled in international organisations like Amnesty International into the issue. Amnesty International carried out an investigation into claims of mass killing of protesters in Libya. They reported that approximately a hundred and ten people had been killed in Benghazi and up to sixty four others were killed in Baida (Herbert, 2014). In conclusion, Amnesty International released a report that acknowledged that Gaddafi forces had committed serious crimes and violated the international humanitarian law (IHL). The report also indicates that Gaddafi forces subjected their perceived opponents and government critics to kidnapping and disappearance and probably murder (Zifcak., 2012).
A survey of women and girls in refugee camps in Egypt and Tunisia with an aim to document and identify traumatic events they experienced in civil war revealed that three hundred women were raped by forces loyal to the government or militiamen (Giannattasio Nobres, 2019). The Physicians for Human Rights organisation received testimonials from eyewitnesses who said that government forces had made a kindergarten school into a detention camp where women and girls as young as fourteen had been raped (Zifcak, 2012). There have been claims that land mines were used during the war in Libya. The Human Rights Watch organization investigated and issued confirmation on claims from opposition groups that Gaddafi military forces and forces loyal to Gaddafi used land mines during the conflict (Giannattasio Nobres, 2019). Gaddafi forces were accused of indiscriminate shelling of civilians in residential towns and in hospitals. The use of heavy machinery weapons as recorded by human-rights groups and evidenced backed especially in the siege of Misrata. Internationally outlawed war practices such as cluster bombing of ammunition was reported as a fighting technique deployed by the Gaddafi forces (Bauer et al 2017). Documentation of unlawful occupation and captivation of hospital staff have been made by Human Rights Watch, which goes against international laws that require protection of hospital staff and health providers in the event of war; however, reports on the occupation and terrorizing of hospital staffs have been reported in Yafran, in the western mountains of Libya by pro-Gaddafi forces (Strazzari, 2014). Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) have documented several violations, reporting occurrences where pro-Gaddafi forces violated human rights by using civilians as human shields against their attackers. The findings also included attack on ambulances bearing the Red Crescent mark and destruction of religious buildings and places of worship (Giannattasio Nobres, 2019).
It is reasonable to believe that such reports by international bodies like the International Criminal Court and Amnesty International are representative of increased international interest in the civil war of Libya. However, despite the increased interest of international community, its role in the Libyan Civil War remains largely under researched. Some literature is available on this point which can give a starting point to further research. For example, Garwood-Gowers (2013) writes that the involvement of the international community in the Libyan civil war as manifested in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 authorising the use of force for the purpose of protection civilian population, were responses to excesses by the government under the principle of responsibility to protect (R2P). Thus, the involvement of the international community in Libya is presented as a response to the Gaddafi regime’s excesses. Busch and Pilat (2013) write that the international community’s concerns about Libya were justified by the finding of the weapons of mass destruction (Busch & Pilat, 2013). However, neither writer tells us the impact of the involvement of the international community.
The literature on the Libyan Civil War pertaining to the reasons why international community got involved in the Civil War is emphasising on the violations of human rights by the regime in suppressing the protests as one of the most pertinent reasons why the international community became involved in the Libyan crisis. This leads to the possibility of the application of the Responsibility to Protect principle by the international community to justify its intervention in the domestic crisis in Libya; therefore, one of the areas of research involved in this dissertation is the exploration of how the principle of Responsibility to Protect may be involved in the situation for driving international intervention in Libya (Francioni & Bakker, 2013 ; Garwood-Gowers, 2013). Indeed, the issue of the application of the principle of Responsibility to Protect has been explored in the context of the Arab Spring itself by some writers (Garwood-Gowers, 2013; Hehir, 2013). It has been argued that the international community got involved in the Libyan Civil War because it was driven by its obligation under the principle of Responsibility to Protect. If that is so, then another area of exploration for this dissertation is whether the actions of the international community, particularly the United States, United Nations and the NATO can be justified on the basis that their involvement in the Civil War led to the reduction of human rights violations. On the other hand, what has been reported is that the involvement of the international community actually led to protraction of the conflict and increased the casualties as well as made the resolution of the conflict more a distant objective (Diatta, Woldemichael, & Toupane, 2019; PSC Report, 2019 ). It has been argued that instead of being justified on the basis of the principle of Responsibility to Protect for intervening in Libya, the involvement of the international community did the opposite of what that principle demands by protracting the conflict and increasing the human costs of the war (Saba & Akbarzadeh, 2018). Therefore, this is an important area of research which is undertaken in this dissertation to further examine the role played by the international community in Libya.
Using a positivist framework, this research will apply qualitative, desk based methods to explore the impact of the international organisations and community in the Libyan Civil War. This section of the research discusses and justifies the research methods employed in the study.
Positivism allows the researcher to accept certain assumptions about the way he views the world and apply an objective approach to the research question (Collins, 2010). Positivist methodology was thought to be appropriate for this research because the researcher wanted to methodologically review the literature and report its major findings without interpreting it, which would have come within the domain of the interpretivist philosophy. Interpretivism was thought inappropriate for this research because the instead of consideration of my own views or interpretation of the data (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2012), or deriving the meaning of the data (Myers, 2013), my purpose was to describe the ways in which the international community played a role in the Libyan civil war. For this purpose, the positivism research philosophy was thought to be the most appropriate for this research. Interpretivism was avoided because the researcher did not wish to interpret the literature and its findings but to accept the findings in the existing literature and use these to examine the role played by the international community in the internationalisation of the Libyan Civil War.
Qualitative method allows the researcher to conduct a research through flexible methods and can be applied under the positivism paradigm (Collis & Hussey, 2009, p. 46). Qualitative research is based on non-numerical data that can also explore nuances in the research area. The researcher uses a deductive method for this research. The research methods are selected by the researcher after the identification of the research philosophy; this helps the researcher to further identify detailed methods of data collection, analysis and interpretation (Creswell, 2013). Qualitative method and deductive approach are identified as the two methods to be used in this research. These are explained below.
Qualitative approach is a subjective approach as compared to the more objective approach of the quantitative research method (Opoku, Ahmed, & Akotia, 2016). Qualitative approach can be used with both the inductive and deductive approaches (Collis & Hussey, 2009). Qualitative approach is chosen for this research study because it is appropriate in studies that are unstructured and flexible and where the object of the researcher is to gain more insight into the research area without being tied to a rigid framework of inquiry such as that in quantitative research (Creswell, 2013). Qualitative research can help the researcher gain insight into multiple narratives around a research area and this can be necessary for research in areas that have a number of themes involved. In this research, the preliminary literature review has revealed a number of themes as well as narratives involved in the area of internationalisation of the Libyan Civil War, which made the area of research more nuanced and capable of in depth research. Therefore, it was thought to be prudent to use qualitative methods of research which would enable the researcher to explore and report the narratives and themes that are pertinent to the Libyan Civil War and the issue of internationalisation of the conflict.
Researchers can choose between deductive and inductive approaches for the purpose of conducting qualitative research (Collis & Hussey, 2009). The difference between the two approaches is how the researcher relates the theory to the research; those following the deductive approach will first identify a general theory and then conduct their research on the basis of that theory so that the findings of the research can be linked back to the theory (Perrin, 2015). The inductive approach sees the researcher trying to formulate a theory by first collecting and analyzing the data and then formulating a theory based on that data (Perrin, 2015). In this theory, the researcher uses the deductive approach because the theory is identified first and then the data collected for this research which is then related back to the theory.
As this research is based on the Libyan Civil War, two methods will be used to collect data within the qualitative paradigm. The first is the secondary research method utilising library and desk research and the second is the case study method which will be used for exploring the Libyan Civil War as separate from other countries that saw the Arab Spring movement at the time (Myers, 2013). In positivist research, case studies may be used to lead to more detailed research, and can be used to explore a single phenomenon to gather in-depth information about that phenomenon (Bryman & Bell, 2015). The data will be analysed using a thematic method, which will be based on recurrent themes in the data.
The case study method is also adopted in this research study because the Libyan Civil War is the focus of the research with the researcher collecting data on how international community responded to and intervened in the Libyan Civil War. Case study methods can be appropriate for international relations research because such research studies often involve complex phenomena, which can be studied with case study method (Bennett & Elman, 2007). Example of seminal case study based research include Walt’s 1996 work on Revolution and War (Walt, 1996) and Schweller (2006) work on the reasons why states often do apply balance of power approach through case analyses of Argentina and Brazil (War of the Triple Alliance), and Britain and France (world wars). The case study approach is chosen in this research study to explore the way in which the Libyan Civil War saw intervention from different powers like the United States and Russia. As this is a qualitative research, case study method is well suited to the framework adopted which is flexible and narrative oriented (Myers, 2013). As this research would involve the researcher in not being rigidly bound to pre-specified methods and the focus remains on uncovering different narrative strands in literature around the Libyan Civil War, the case study method under a qualitative framework has been useful (Willis & Jost, 2007). Layers of information and multiple and contrasting narratives have been uncovered using the qualitative research method allowing the researcher to explore multi-layered information (Walliman, 2015).
As this research does not involve primary data collected from participants, the ethical concerns are somewhat limited, but they do exist and needed to be addressed by the researcher. It is imperative that the researcher in any kind of study, considers the ethical and legal constraints before undertaking the study so that such concerns are addressed when formulating the research design (Rebar, Gersch, Macnee, & McCabe, 2011). In a secondary, desk based research of this nature, an important ethical issue is that of possible plagiarism; plagiarism occurs when all contributors are not properly acknowledged, or the report contains plagiarised content (Higgins & Green, 2017). In this study, the researcher addressed this concern by makin certain that all sources were cited properly. Another issue relates to use of credible data. The research should not be based on data that is not academic, not high-quality, and not credible. In order to avoid basing the findings of this research on such data, only high quality, academic literature was selected, including studies from peer reviewed journals and books by distinguished authors. The third ethical issue involved in this study was that of avoidance of researcher bias, which can occur when the researcher selects studies and articles that align with preconceived notions or desired results. The researcher approached this research with an open mind and without preconceived notions on what the results should be. Proceeding from this point, the researcher selected all the available high quality literature on the issue under research so that all relevant information could be collected on the issue. This helped the researcher avoid the researcher bias issue and address this ethical issue in an appropriate manner.
The data collected in this research has led to the revealing of particular themes that are covered in the literature on Civil War in literature with respect to the issue of the internationalization of the Libyan Civil War. These themes are related to the reasons why international community became involved in the conflict and the impacts of such involvement in the Libyan Civil War.
As per the understanding on the principle of Responsibility to Protect under the international law at this time, the principle can be applied in situations where the citizens of a state are threatened by genocide, war crimes, or ethnic cleansing (Cohen, 2012, p. 8). In such situation, the principle of Responsibility to Protect is applicable to create an obligation on the state to protect the citizens, failing which it becomes the obligation of the international community to intervene to protect the citizens. In such a situation, a humanitarian intervention may be inevitable and even justified (Cohen, 2012). This is provided under the Outcome document of the World Summit 2005, Para 39 of which provides that the UN on the behalf of the international community “has the responsibility to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means, in accordance with Chapters VI and VIII of the Charter, to help protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” The failure of the international community to protect civilians in Rwanda in 1994, and the inability of the UN peacekeeping force UNPROFOR to prevent the massacre at Srebrenica, Bosnia, in 1995, are some of the reasons why the international community has taken steps to adopt the principle of Responsibility to Protect in the Outcome Document in 2005 (Francioni & Bakker, 2013, p. 6).
The principle of Responsibility to Protect will be important to understanding the reasons why the international community has intervened in the Libyan crisis. While the principle may not be adequate to explain all the reasons why the international community has intervened in Libya, it would be a useful construct to assess the actions of some of the states and the international organisations in the Libyan context. This section presented a brief overview of the principle for the purpose of setting the background for the upcoming sections where the principle will be referred to in the context of the actions of some states and organisations in the Libyan context.The principle of Responsibility to Protect is relevant to the discussion on internationalization of the Libyan Civil War because part of the reasons given by the international organisations and some countries that involved themselves in Libyan situation have justified the intervention on the principle of Responsibility to Protect. The principle of Responsibility to Protect is devised to allow international community and organisations to respond to human rights violations in a domestic context when the nature of these violations is grave so as to merit intervention by the international community (Francioni & Bakker, 2013 ; Garwood-Gowers, 2013; Hehir, 2013). Therefore, the reasons why the principle of Responsibility to Protect come to be applied are noble in nature and are based on the premise that if the question of human rights are involved then the international community ought to intervene even in otherwise domestic situations of conflict.
However, the principle also involves an important issue of conflict in international law between the principle of state sovereignty and the need to protect human rights with sovereignty often being prioritised over human rights except where the internal situation in a state involves serious human rights issues like genocide (Donnelly, 2007, p. 289). Therefore, there is a conflict between two important principles of international law that comes into play with the application of the principle of Responsibility to Protect: on one hand, the principle of state sovereignty demands that international community refrains itself from intervening in the domestic situation; on the other hand, the principles of human rights protection demands that when there is a grave human rights violation situation anywhere in the world, then the international community or organisations like the United Nations ought to intervene.
The defining point at which the international community can justify its actions in intervention into the domestic affairs of the state is where the state itself is unable or unwilling to take protective action for human rights of its own citizens (Saba & Akbarzadeh, 2018). When a state is unable or unwilling to protect its civilians from the violation of their human rights, this involves a clear conflict between state sovereignty and human rights and the failure of the state to protect its people. Therefore, the question is whether Libya was unable or unwilling to protect human rights of its own citizens and whether Libya (as per the media reports at the time) was itself involved in human rights violations against its own citizens. This question is important because it relates to the possible conflict between state sovereignty and human rights and the failure of the state to protect its people.
In the case of Libya, the above mentioned conflict was said to be made out as the state was involved in use of force for the suppression of dissent during the Arab Spring (Serwer, 2011). There were a number of news reports at the time which depicted violation of human rights by the Libyan army while stifling dissent. This is not unique to Libya as there are states that have been involved in genocide, ethnic cleansing and exercise of chemical and biological weapons against their own citizens which has led to the development of the principle of Responsibility to Protect in the international law in the first place (Farer, et al., 2005). The principle of Responsibility to Protect is applicable to states in a way that there is an obligation to protect human rights and if the state fails to protect the human rights of its citizens or is itself the violator of human rights, then the international community or international organisations are allowed to take action against the state in international law (Oman, 2012). This was the justification to be used for any international action in Libya.
The principle of Responsibility to Protect has been considered to be is to be seen as a “modern rendering of those movements and advocates who have called for action to redress suffering abroad” (Hehir, 2013, p. 122). The principle is also traced back to the concept of ‘just war’ that was theorized in the earlier time when war was at times justified on the basis of the principle of protection of human rights. In the more recent times, the principle of responsibility to protect can be traced to the Kosovo crisis in 1999 when NATO intervened in Yugoslavia (Donnelly, 2014, p. 231). Although there are some questions raised on the legitimacy of the NATO action in Kosovo (Helmersen, 2014), the action was sought to be justified partly on the basis of the human rights violations in Yugoslavia at the time (Green, 2011).
The application of the principle of Responsibility to Protect in situations such as in Libya, is controversial because even if in the form of a humanitarian intervention, there is use of force against a state. In this context, humanitarian intervention is itself defined as the "use of armed force by one state against another to protect the nationals of the latter from acts or omissions of their own government which shock the conscience of mankind” (L. Holzgrefe and Robert O. Keohane, in Farer, et al., 2005, p. 212). Controversy on its application arises from the fact that there is express prohibition of use of force and intervention in the UN Charter, Articles 2(4) and 2(7), respectively. Nevertheless, the principle of Responsibility to Protect has been accepted and adopted by the international community itself in the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (Cohen, 2012). 195 states of the United Nations have adopted this principle at the 2005 World Summit on prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity (Bellamy, 2009).
A final point that can be made here is this: despite the justification of Libyan intervention by the NATO forces on the humanitarian grounds, the actual aftermath of the intervention has been controversial and problematic to explain on the same grounds because the Civil War in Libya and the falling of the Gaddafi government has led to more human rights violations in Libya than what happened under the Gaddafi regime (Kuperman, 2015). This has been aptly explained as follows:
“Although the White House justified its mission in Libya on humanitarian grounds, the intervention in fact greatly magnified the death toll there. To begin with, Qaddafi’s crackdown turns out to have been much less lethal than media reports indicated at the time. In eastern Libya, where the uprising began as a mix of peaceful and violent protests, Human Rights Watch documented only 233 deaths in the first days of the fighting, not 10,000, as had been reported by the Saudi news channel Al Arabiya. ... Although an Al Jazeera article touted by Western media in early 2011 alleged that Qaddafi’s air force had strafed and bombed civilians in Benghazi and Tripoli, “the story was untrue,” revealed an exhaustive examination in the London Review of Books by Hugh Roberts of Tufts University. Indeed, striving to minimize civilian casualties, Qaddafi’s forces had refrained from indiscriminate violence” (Kuperman, 2015, p. 68).
Therefore, the use of the principle of Responsibility to Protect may ultimately not be justifiable given the facts that have been revealed in the later period. Also important is the fact that the rebels who were supported by the NATO forces against Gaddafi forces have themselves been accused of much more serious human rights violations after they took control of Libya (Kuperman, 2015). These serious human rights violations and the inability of Libya to become a democratic nation in the after math of the Libyan Civil War raise serious questions about the internationalization of the Libyan Civil War and the role played by prominent countries like the United States and other countries in the EU. The fact that instead of shortening the conflict and thereby reducing casualties, the Civil War in Libya has actually been a protracted one and has seen a rise of casualties over the years, makes the use of the principle of Responsibility to Protect suspect and open to criticism.
In her work on the civil war in Libya, Bhardwaj (2012) writes about five indicators that lead to internationalisation of civil war in a country. These include the
“nature and actions of the previous regime, including rise to power, makeup of the regime, public access to information and political dissent, and amenability to reform; the territoriality of conflict, or the division of the state into government- and rebel-con- trolled territories with loosely or clearly defined battlegrounds, and the ability of the players to gain local support and resource access in these home bases; the militarization of government and rebel forces, including the loss of monopoly of force by the government and the ability and willingness of the rebel forces to arm and train its members through either internal or external means into cohesive and united troops; international influence, in the form of state, international organization, and NGO approval, aid, and/or intervention, and the nature of international media coverage influencing policymaking; and regional players, including the approval of bordering nations, regional organizations, and the flow of goods and services through borders” (p. 80).
In the case of the Libyan Civil War, the conflict at home soon developed into a civil war with the meeting of the five indicators, including the harsh and repressive regime at home, territorial division into NTC and loyalist strongholds within Libya, militarization of government and rebel forces through NTC armament and military training, coalition rebel forces, international influence of the UN, NATO intervention, and regional players like the Arab League (Bhardwaj, 2012). These factors led to the turning of a protest against the government (which was for the initial stages a peaceful protest) into a civil war. Therefore, apart from domestic conditions, there was an involvement of the international community and organisations as well as regional players that can be said to have contributed to the formation of the civil war in Libya in 2011. This is noted by Bhadwaj (2012) who writes:
“International influence was a key cause of Libyan civil war through multiple mechanisms. Strongly favorable media coverage of the NTC and Gaddafi’s longstanding negative image justified international action. Even in rhetoric that described Libya as a civil war as early as February, news organizations and think tanks identified governmental repression as a legitimate reason for NTC violence. Such rhetoric was echoed in policy briefs and lobbyist statements that ultimately led to UN action through Resolution 1973 to establish a no fly zone and allow intervention under the Responsibility to Protect to prevent “widespread and systematic attacks against civilian populations”. This provided the framework for NATO intervention, which solidified both the instrumental capacity of the NTC as well as its anti-regime, pro-democracy identity (p. 83).
The role played by organisations like NATO and the UN is therefore important to understanding the reasons why Libya went from a domestic situation of protests to a full scale civil war. It is important to note that the support for NTC within the UN and the NATO gave it legitimacy in the eyes of the international community to some extent; however, support to NTC was denied by Russia. This divided the international community as well on the issue of whom they supported within Libya. This may have affected the parties or rivals within Libya differently as some were supported by one side of the international community while others were supported by another side of the international community.
Libyan Civil War was internationalized as it saw the involvement of international organisations including the United Nations, NATO, and ISIL; at the same time other countries also were interested in the events in Libya, including the Egyptian government, and Russia, France and other Arab nations (Serwer, 2011). The principal interest of many of these parties was to protect the civilian populations that were caught in the conflict (Serwer, 2011). Indeed, the human cost of the Libyan Civil War is significant, and it can be expected that this is one of the reasons for the international community to have an interest in the events in Libya at the time. In a report published in 2015, it was estimated that 21,490 people had been killed, 19,700 injured and 435,000 people were internally displaced due to the Libyan Civil War (Daw, et al., 2015).
One of the themes in the recent literature on the involvement of international organisations and countries in the war in Libya pertains to the failure of the organisations as well as countries to respond to the war in Libya by diffusing the situation. The United Nations, as well as powerful countries like the United States have been considered to be unable or unwilling to play an effective role in stopping the civil war in Libya. Indeed, there is one argument that the failure of the international community to prevent or stop the events in Libya suggest that the international community has failed in its duty under the principle of Responsibility to Protect, towards the civilian population of Libya (Francioni & Bakker, 2013 ). Indeed, the situation in Libya had been spiraling since the onset of the Arab Spring and yet, there was little or no response from the international community to the reports of government crackdown on the civil society and protestors and the application of force by the Gaddafi regime against the civilians (Bhardwaj, 2012). The United Nations as well as other countries could be said to be responsible under the principle of Responsibility to Protect to respond to the human rights violations in Libya (Saba & Akbarzadeh, 2018). The important question is whether they did respond or not.
There were some steps taken by the United Nations in response to the deteriorating conditions of human rights in Libya during the time of the Civil War. In 2011, the United Nations Security Council responded to the growing seriousness of the Libyan human rights conditions under the crackdown from the Gaddafi regime by passing Resolution 1973; this was done to authorise the use of force by the United Nations against Libya for the purpose of protection civilian population (Garwood-Gowers, 2013). Resolution 1973 was passed under the principle of responsibility to protect as Libya was either unable or unwilling to protect its civilians (Garwood-Gowers, 2013). Therefore, at least initially, the use of the intervention in Libya has been sought to be justified on the basis of need to protect the human rights of the civilians in Libya.
With regard to the war in Libya, the failure of the United States to prevent the war has even led one writer to question the continuing relevance of the status of the United States as an ‘exceptional’ nation (Nasr, 2013). Similar argument is made in another work, where the writer says that the events in many disturbed regions including Libya, demand a more proactive role from the United States to respond to the situations; however, the United States has been unable or unwilling to play such a role in the regions (Rasmussen, 2016). The United States along with other NATO countries was involved in the Libyan Civil War. However, the role played by the United States was not as important as that played by the European countries within the NATO. There was a deliberate imbalance in burden sharing between the United States and other NATO countries as the former played a supporting role and European nations took on more burden in securing sharing arrangements (Hallams & Schreer, 2012). Britain and France took the lead in military operations in Libya (Hallams & Schreer, 2012, p. 313). This also raises questions about whether the United States is even an indispensable nation; indeed, the Libyan Civil War and the role played by the United States has opened up more questions about the latter’s role in the larger international community which has always been that of taking lead (Nasr, 2013).
Another theme in the literature around Libyan Civil War and the international community and countries is that of the internationalization of the Libyan Civil War, which led to some countries feeding the Civil War by providing aid and support to the rebels and other participants in the war. Libyan situation went from what started as a protest against the regime to a full scale civil war (Bhardwaj, 2012). At this time, some countries were even providing training and support to rebel forces, which has been put forth as one of the prominent reasons why the uprising turned into a full scale civil war (Bhardwaj, 2012). This theme is discussed in this section in some detail.
Internationalisation of civil war is not limited to the Libyan conflict and it is not something that can now be said to be an uncommon phenomenon because in the past years, internationalisation of civil war has happened in many instances (Von Einsiedel, Bosetti, Cockayne, Salih, & Wan, 2017). Research on civil wars reveals that there is an uptick in the involvement or intervention of countries in internal conflicts through support to one or both sides of the civil war in a nation (Von Einsiedel, Bosetti, Cockayne, Salih, & Wan, 2017). The period between 1991 to 2015 saw a ten-fold increase in such internationalisation of conflict from 4% of conflicts internationalised in 1991 to 40% by 2015 (Von Einsiedel, Bosetti, Cockayne, Salih, & Wan, 2017).
In Libya, one of the countries that has tried to apply a softer involvement approach instead of a more intrusive intervention policy is China; indeed, Chinese foreign policy reaction to Libya Crisis of 2011 shows that by and large the country will continue to adhere to non-interference with some flexibility to allow soft interference approach (Junbo & Mendez, 2015). China’s involvement in Libya (indeed also the western countries’ involvement in Libya) stems from the involvement of these countries in the oil economy of Libya. China’s involvement in Libya’s oil economy is not as significant as the involvement of some western countries’ involvement. Prior to the Civil War, the key investors in Libyan oil were Western nations such as, Italy, USA, and UK, while Spain and France are also major markets for oil exports from Libya (Junbo & Mendez, 2015). Only 3 percent of Libya’s total oil exports were directed to China prior to the Libyan Civil War (Junbo & Mendez, 2015). Therefore, China’s interest in the Libyan oil economy was not as significant as compared to the interest of other countries. This may suggest the reasons why China did not adopt a harder approach to intervention in Libya as some Western countries did. At the same time, China itself claimed its neutrality in the Libyan Civil War at the beginning of the conflict (Junbo & Mendez, 2015). China also delivered humanitarian supplies to the rebels and Tripoli to show its neutrality in the war (Junbo & Mendez, 2015). However, as the fall of the Gaddafi regime became more and more certain, China sent out feelers to the rebels in a way that showed that it had taken a flexible approach to the war and now was ready to deal directly with the rebels being supported by the NATO (Junbo & Mendez, 2015). China however, did not extend recognition to the NTC as the sole authority for Libya until much after other countries including Russia, had extended such recognition. These steps by the Chinese government have been identified as ‘hedging’ by Junbo and Mendez (2015), who write that China took a much more ambiguous stance to the Civil War in Libya and did not decide to support the rebels against Tripoli until it was more sure about the outcomes of the Civil War for the Gaddafi government. Considering the actions of foreign countries like China with respect to Libya, the internationalisation of the conflict can be seen in the context of partial internationalisation, which was theorised by Falk (Falk & McNemar, 1971). Falk described partial internationalisation of domestic conflict as a situation in which the state of belligerency is not brought into being so that states are free to define their relationship with the insurgents so that a more cautious approach can be taken by them with respect to the parent state. In other words, foreign states proceed with caution with respect to the conflict by recognising insurgents in a limited sense so that the parent state is not provoked unnecessarily as is most likely to be if the foreign states extend formal recognition to the insurgents in a civil war situation. This allows the foreign states to balance their interests between the conflicting parties in the civil war while also avoiding the need for the application of the laws of neutrality or the international laws of war (Falk & McNemar, 1971).
China’s approach to the Libyan Civil War is in marked contrast to the approach taken by the European Union. At the beginning of the Libyan Crisis, the Gaddafi government had taken harsh measures against the protestors who were involved in Arab Spring protests; it was revealed later that the European Union (EU) member states’ had sold arms worth over a billion Euros to the Gaddafi regime prior to February 2011 and that the Libyan government had launched an armed crackdown on demonstrators using the European armaments (Hansen & Marsh, 2015). This led to some censure of the EU member states in the Libyan civil society. Arms exports to Libya have come under some scrutiny in the aftermath of the Libyan Civil War for its fuelling of the Civil War in Libya as both the rebels and the government had access to arms and ammunition sales from European countries. For instance, research has revealed that at one point in the Civil War, both the rebel side and the government had used German made arms and ammunition (Wisotzki & Mutschler, 2020).
Western countries did not just provide arms and ammunition to the rebels or the government during the Civil War in Libya, some countries, primarily the United States also provided training, which fuelled the Civil War in Libya and helped the rebels gain ground as well as defeat the Tripoli forces in within a year (Kuperman, 2015). The American intervention in Libya was facilitated by the Security Council Resolution 1973 authorising military intervention in Libya, which allowed the United States to organise NATO mission to Libya that was aimed at helping civilians; the Resolution led to the establishment of a no-fly zone throughout Libya and then NATO bombing of Gaddafi’s forces (Kuperman, 2015). Thus, NATO actively supported the rebels in the Civil War in Libya while China had taken a more restrained approach by being neutral in the beginning and cautiously supportive of the rebels at the later part of the Civil War.
The internationalisation of the Libyan conflict was not limited to the events in 2011 but have continued to date as noted in one study, which provides that the Libyan conflict has experienced its most serious escalation since 2014 in 2019, with the conflict escalating between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli (Diatta, Woldemichael, & Toupane, 2019). Research shows that the impact of such internationalisation of internal conflicts has been negative for the external interventions in domestic conflicts are likely to make internal conflicts more protracted and deadlier for the civilian populations of those countries that are involved in such internal conflicts (Von Einsiedel, Bosetti, Cockayne, Salih, & Wan, 2017). For instance, it is pointed out with reference to conflicts other than in Libya, where internationalisation of the conflict has led to protracted conflicts and fatalities:
“The DRC is a case in point, where the mining and military interests of neighbouring countries like Rwanda and Uganda have contributed to extending the Congolese conflict over many years, with both countries shifting their support to different parties over time in accordance with their own objectives. Intervening countries act almost as additional independent parties to the conflict, which poses extra challenges to peace negotiations. Syria is another example, where the military involvement of multiple external actors complicates prospects for a negotiated solution to the conflict. The involvement of states with strong militaries, such as the US or Russia, in internal conflicts is especially likely to cause more fatalities” (Von Einsiedel, Bosetti, Cockayne, Salih, & Wan, 2017, p. 16).
It is also necessary to understand the nature of the armed conflict in Libya in order to understand the way in which the foreign countries and international organisations’ involvement will be seen in the context of international law which differentiates between international and non international armed conflict (Whitelaw, 2016). The Libyan crisis began in February 2011 when violent political protests by Libyan citizens against the Gaddafi regime had started but there was no foreign intervention until 17 March 2011, till which time the Libyan conflict was entirely internal and subject to domestic law (Whitelaw, 2016). On 17 March 2011, the UNSC passed resolution 1973, which authorised Member States to take all necessary measures for protecting civilians under threat of attack in Libya because by this time the reports of Libyan army excesses against the civilians had become serious. The American and European air strikes took place, and at this point, the Libyan conflict became internationalised; which means that this point onwards Libyan conflict was no longer limited to domestic forces fighting against each other but was seeing the involvement of foreign forces who were also involved in the armed conflict (Whitelaw, 2016). The conduct of the conflict was from this point onwards also impacted by the involvement of the foreign forces, which is one of the indicators of internationalisation of armed conflict as per the definition given by the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (Prosecutor v Blaskic (Trial Judgment), IT-95-14-T, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugosla- via (ICTY), (3 March 2000), 2000, p. 94). Foreign State intervention under the UNSC resolution went to the extent of deployment of fighter jets and action against governmental forces as well as the establishment of the NATO no-fly zone.
Yet another theme related to Libyan Civil War is the concern that Libya had a cache of weapons of mass destruction, whereas Libya had claimed to have destroyed these weapons (Busch & Pilat, 2013). This provided a reason for the internationalisation of the Libyan Civil War as the fact that there was a large cache of weapons of mass destruction was a concern for the international community itself (Busch & Pilat, 2013).
Libya had a controversial history with proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (Bahgat, 2008). In 2003, after intense international pressure, Libya announced its intention to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction programmes after the US-led war in Iraq in 2003 on the ground of the latter having weapons of mass destruction (Bahgat, 2008). There were also reasons related to leadership and ideology, relations with Western powers, and security considerations that led to these announcements by Libya (Bahgat, 2008). After the Iraq invasion in 2003, Libyan president made several overtures to the West, particularly, the United States and he publicly gave up the weapons of mass destruction programme (Chivvis, 2015). What happened between 2003 and 2011 that led to an increased interest in whether the programme still existed in Libya is one of the interesting questions. In 2009, the United States and Libya established diplomatic relations with an exchange of ambassadors (Chivvis, 2015). Yet in two short years after that, once the crisis in Libya broke out in the form of the Arab Spring movement, the United States and other western nations criticised Libya on the ground of repression of civilians and also on the possibility of a weapons of mass destruction programme being run in Libya contrary to the assertions of the Libyan president (Chivvis, 2015).
McComb (2013) writes that the suspicions of the United States and other western countries on the Libyan weapons of mass destruction were proved correct when after the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime evidence of the existing programmes emerged. He writes of the timeline from the time when Gadaffi made public announcements regarding weapons of mass destruction and to the overthrow of his regime as follows:
“A 2004 National Intelligence Estimate documented Libya's possession of chemical weapons agents and delivery systems ... In keeping with its CWC commitments, that year Libya declared about 24 metric tons of sulfur mustard agent - an amount considerably less than predicted... The surprisingly small amount of declared chemical stockpiles would cast the U.S. intelligence community in a poor light, given its previous production estimates. As a sign of its continued commitment to the CWC, in February 2011, Libya claimed to have destroyed over half of its declared sulfur mustard inventory ... However, after the 2011 overthrow of the Qadhafi regime, the 2004 Libyan declarations were exposed as false in the wake of revelations that at least two additional undeclared and previously unknown WMD sites existed elsewhere in the country” (McComb, 2013, p. 77).
In the case of Libya, the existence of the weapons of mass destruction programme also became a flashpoint in the international community because of the links between Libyan government and terror groups (McComb, 2013). Although Libya had vowed to rid of its weapons proliferation, it had apparently not done so, which is one of the reasons why the United States and other western countries got involved. Another related reason is the link between Libyan weapon programme and Russian assistance. McComb (2013) notes that there is significant recorded evidence of “transfer of Soviet and Warsaw Pact WMD technology to states such as Syria, Iraq, and Libya, each of them notable state sponsors of terrorist groups” (p. 81). Combining these reasons along with the possibility that the Arab Spring may lead to a possible collapse of the Libyan state controlling the weapons and then terrorists potentially getting unfettered access to WMD arsenals in Libya, it became an international concern that such repercussions should not take place in Libya (McComb, 2013).
The Libyan Civil War was not an international armed conflict. It was an internal armed conflict between the government forces and rebel militias, which was internationalised when foreign countries and the UN got involved in the conflict because the Libyan government was said to be involved in the violation of human rights. When foreign countries got involved and the conflict became internationalised, the effect was also to prolong the conflict and make it more deadly. Therefore, a question that arises is whether this internationalisation of the armed conflict also led to the application of the international humanitarian law to the Libyan Civil War.
The Libyan Civil War can be seen in two phases: the first phase was from February 2011 onwards to 2014 when the first conflict took place, although the internationalisation of the conflict happened in March 2011 itself when the UNSC resolution 1973 took effect (Whitelaw, 2016). The second phase is from 2014 onwards, which is also called as the second Libyan civil war because this period saw the conflict getting more diverse and protracted. The period between 2012 and 2014 saw the attempts to stabilise the Libyan political situation with politicians unsuccessfully trying to align with established local militias in early 2014; but this was not successful and by mid 2014, the conflict became more intense. The period after 2014 also saw internationalisation of conflict with foreign governments officially recognising the Presidential Council and the GNA. Against these events, it has to be seen whether international humanitarian law is applicable; prior to the adoption of Geneva Conventions in 1949, internal conflicts were subject to the rules of traditional international law, while states were generally hesitant to apply international law to situations of internal violence (Sivakumaran, 2012). Because the power to make war is a sovereign prerogative, recognising civil war means that states are endorsing non-state armed groups by such recognition of their involvement in the war; also internal violence is understood to fall within “the domaine reservé of states and therefore a matter for the affected state alone” (Sivakumaran, 2012, p.9). However, the situation becomes complex in situations of recognised belligerency because when foreign powers recognise one party to the conflict, that is, the belligerents, then they become subject to international obligations related to the conduct of hostilities (Sivakumaran, 2012).
It is also important to distinguish between rebellion and insurgency and belligerence. Rebellion is the first stage of a civil war; Falk defines it as a sporadic challenge to the legitimate government and he defines insurgency as something that is applied to situations of sustained conflict (Falk & McNemar, 1971). Rebellion does not lead to a situation where the international humanitarian law has to be applied, but the same cannot be said of belligerence, which is involved in civil war situation and where, the international humanitarian law may become applicable (Falk & McNemar, 1971). Belligerency is the next step in the civil war and in this stage if foreign countries get involved, then there is a scope for application of the international humanitarian law. Foreign countries may get involved and recognise the belligerent insurgents for a variety of reasons, including protecting national interests in insurgent controlled territory or regularising political or commercial discourse which gets affected by the belligerent taking over parts of the territory where the foreign countries have interests. By recognising the belligerents and insurgents, the foreign countries are able to address their interests. However, there is an ambiguity as to whether international humanitarian law is applicable or not.
The Libyan Civil War exposed the significant proportion of Libyan civilian population to human rights violations (Dessì, 2015). At the same time, there was no application of judicial redress for the human rights violations in the domestic courts of Libya and this led to the international human rights activists demanding the International Criminal Court (ICC) to commence a new investigation in Libya, so that the governments and militias cam be held accountable for their actions (Dessì, 2015).
The reasons why the 2011 Libyan civil war was internationalised has been linked to the rentier state theory and resource curse theory; the former is used to argue that the Libyan rentier state collapsed while the latter is used to explain why the civil war was internationalised. Libya is a resource rich state which led to the interest of the foreign countries because many countries have interest in the oil that Libya has significant reserves (Arzu & Aslan, 2018). This is also the reason for why civil war gets protracted and difficult. The involvement of foreign countries makes the conflict harder to resolve (Asseburg, Lacher, & Transfeld, 2018). It has been said that:
“In contrast to the regional powers, Western states had not contributed to the escalation of the conflicts in 2014. Indeed, they had united in support for a negotiated solution. However, the more protracted the situation in Libya, and the more remote any restoration of state authority, the more Western governments became directly involved. This initially occurred in pursuit of counterterrorism. From early 2016, French special forces supported Haftar’s forces in Benghazi. While French diplomats consistently played down this presence as merely for reconnaissance, the political signal was unmistakeable: despite his aggressive opposition to the Skhirat agreement, Haftar enjoyed Paris’s support. This made the official French support for the agreement meaningless, and shattered European unity on Libya” (Asseburg, Lacher, & Transfeld, 2018, p. 21).
The involvement of foreign countries in Libyan Civil Wat led to fragmentation and also protraction of the Civil War. The western governments supported one side to the conflict whereas regional governments supported the others. This did not however follow with the application of international humanitarian law in the conflict which led to the further problems with the conflict. One of the reasons for this may be that for some part, the involvement of the foreign countries in the conflict between the warring factions within Libya was not directly termed as an involvement in an armed conflict (Zamir, 2017, p. 108). The foreign military involvement in the initial phase of the conflict was related to the protection of civilian populations and then later to the cooperation with the rebel forces that were trying to overthrow the Gaddafi regime in Libya (Zamir, 2017, p. 108). However, the foreign states did not classify the nature of their intervention in Libya as an international armed conflict; similarly, the Libyan government and the militia’s conduct also showed that they were not classifying their conflict as an international armed conflict (Zamir, 2017). The government of Libya and the militia did not grant prisoner of war status to the fighters from the other side. The National Transitional Council clarified that the law applicable to the conflict was that of non international armed conflict, which means that they did not favour the recognition of the internationalisation of the Libyan Civil War (Zamir, 2017). As far as the conduct of all the foreign states and the international organisations as well as the Libyan government, the militias and the NTC is concerned, none of them recognised formally that the Libyan Civil War had become internationalised and none of the parties suggested that the international humanitarian law
Was applicable to the conflict (Zamir, 2017, p. 109). Although, the Libyan Civil War may have seen the intervention by foreign countries, which may go on to mean that the international armed conflict existed between the Libyan state and the foreign powers helping the militia, the involvement of these states did not lead to the acceptance of there being an internationalisation of the armed conflict in Libya. Therefore, a very complex situation was created in which despite there being all the indicators of armed conflict, and involvement of foreign countries, a formal condition meriting the application of the international humanitarian law was not created or accepted by the countries involved. It is also important to note that despite the involvement of foreign countries in the Libyan armed conflict, when the National Transitional Council took over Tripoli, it may be considered to be de-internationalisation of the Civil War from that point onwards (Zamir, 2017, p. 168). However, this point of view is not considered to be a strong argument because it would allow international community to classify the nature of the conflict that they have also participated in (Zamir, 2017).
The data collected and analysed in this research has allowed the researcher to draw certain conclusions in answer to this research question. These conclusions are shared in this final chapter of this dissertation.
One of the effects of the internationalisation of the Libyan Civil War, was that the conflict at home developed into a more potent civil war. While some domestic factors were responsible for this to some extent, particularly, the harsh and repressive regime, territorial division into NTC and loyalist strongholds within Libya, militarization of government and rebel forces through NTC armament and military training, coalition rebel forces; international influence of the UN, NATO intervention, and regional players like the Arab League also played a role in turning of a protest against the government into a civil war. Therefore, apart from domestic conditions, there was an involvement of the international community and organisations as well as regional players that can be said to have contributed to the formation of the civil war in Libya in 2011. International influence was responsible for the war becoming more potent and prolonged; this started with the favourable media coverage of the NTC and negative image of the Libyan government; international media sought to justify the use of violence by the NTC as a legitimate response to governmental repression. This led to the UN action through UNSC 1973 where no fly zone was allowed over Libya and NATO intervention was allowed.
While the international actions in Libya under the UN and the NATO were sought to be justified under the principle of Responsibility to Protect, this principle alone is not adequate to explain all the reasons why the international community intervened in Libya. Moreover, despite the justification of Libyan intervention by the NATO forces on the humanitarian grounds, the actual aftermath of the intervention is controversial and problematic to explain on the same grounds because the Civil War in Libya and the falling of the Gaddafi government has led to more human rights violations in Libya than what happened under the Gaddafi regime. The United States justified its mission in Libya on humanitarian grounds, but the Libyan Civil War led to more death toll and compared to Qaddafi’s crackdown, which proved to be much less lethal than media reports suggested, the NATO action and the NTC violence led to a much higher death toll in Libya as came to be seen over time. Therefore, the use of the principle of Responsibility to Protect may ultimately not be justifiable given the facts that have been revealed in the later period. Moreover, the principle of Responsibility to Protect was not used or was ignored when it came to the serious human rights violations after NTC took control of Libya. Therefore, one impact of the internationalisation of the Libyan Civil War is the exposure of the apparent failure of the international community to prevent or stop the events in Libya.
Another impact of the internationalisation of the Libyan conflict is that instead of stopping the war, it has led to the continuation of the war over years. The Libyan Conflict was not limited to the events in 2011 but have continued to date as noted in one study, which provides that the Libyan conflict has experienced its most serious escalation since 2014 in 2019, with the conflict escalating between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. The fact that internationalisation of the Civil War could not cut short the conflict in Libya is in line with literature that shows that the impact of such internationalisation of internal conflicts has generally been negative for the external interventions in domestic conflicts are likely to make internal conflicts more protracted and deadlier for the civilian populations of those countries that are involved in such internal conflicts. Libya is not the only country where internationalisation of the conflict led to protracted conflicts and fatalities. Syria is another example where internationalisation led to prolonging of the conflict and more death rates. Intervening countries often become additional independent parties to the conflict, as seen in Libya as well as Syria and this is challenging for the peace negotiations eventually. In other words, the involvement of multiple external actors is not conducive to the peaceful resolution of the conflict, rather it exacerbates the conflict, and leads to more death count as well as prolonging of the conflict. The Libyan Civil War has exposed a significant proportion of Libyan civilian population to human rights violations. Finally, despite the prolonging of the Civil War and the mounting death toll as well as other human rights violations, there was no application of international humanitarian law, and no application of judicial redress for the human rights violations in the domestic courts of Libya. Despite the internationalisation of the conflict, foreign countries as well as the UN was able to deny that the conflict had turned into an international armed conflict to which the international humanitarian law could apply. This also exposes the gaps in international humanitarian law itself in context of internationalised civil wars.
To conclude, it may be noted that the impact of the internationalisation of the Libyan Civil War is largely negative. It has led to the prolonging of the conflict, and mounting death rates. The involvement of the foreign countries in a domestic conflict made the possibility of a peaceful resolution difficult.
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