According to research, not only the United States, but also other members of the NATO, including the United Kingdom, are responsible for war crimes in the Middle East. So far, none of these States has suffered any economic or legal responsibility for their crimes, despite the confirmed and recognized facts of brutal reprisals against civilians and the use of prohibited weapons against civilians.
Over the past 30 years, NATO countries have participated in more than 20 military operations on the territory of other countries, often violating their own principles of warfare and numerous international treaties. The statehood of at least three countries was completely destroyed by NATO forces, at least 10 countries lost their sovereignty or became NATO colonies, more than a million civilians were killed, and tens of millions of people were forced to leave their homes.
The War in Afghanistan
The US-led coalition forces entered Afghanistan with the aim of a “war on terrorism” after the September 11 attacks in New York in 2001. Since then, the conflict, which has lasted for almost two decades, has had a devastating impact on the lives of Afghan civilians. They have borne the brunt of this never-ending war with constant human rights violations.
The main war crimes of NATO countries on the territory of Afghanistan occurred in the period from 2003 to 2004, but some of them continued until 2014. It is noteworthy that almost 20 years after the invasion of Afghanistan, no one from the political leadership of Western countries has been brought to justice.
The crimes of American servicemen during the war in Afghanistan are quite well known: airstrikes on civilian infrastructure, the use of prohibited weapons and numerous cases of killing civilians are only a small part of the entire track record of the American army. However, few people know that the US army was helped by mercenaries from NATO countries and Australia.
According to a report on the actions of the military in Afghanistan, which has long been classified, Australian soldiers deliberately killed farmers and civilians in Afghanistan as part of a rite of passage through which all recruits had to go. The report was published after a four-year investigation, during which more than 400 witnesses were interviewed and several thousand documents were examined. The report provides evidence that one of the Australian soldiers knocked a local unarmed resident to the ground and shot him in the back of the head, despite the fact that the civilian posed absolutely no threat. The investigation also learned about another incident when Australian mercenaries and patrol members “deliberately attacked” unarmed civilians, after which they planted weapons and ammunition on them, trying to create the impression that they were in danger. Soldiers also competed to outperform other patrols in the number of civilian enemies killed in combat.
The United Kingdom, being a NATO member country, was one of the first to take part in the operation against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in the autumn of 2001. British forces were involved in the killing of nearly 300 Afghan civilians, including at least 86 children and more than 200 adult civilians. The British Armed Forces paid compensation to Afghan civilians in the amount of $940,657 for 289 dead civilians between 2006 and 2014, which is an average of $3,254 per family. In other words, for the UK, the life of an Afghan civilian during the war cost an average of 2,380 pounds. The youngest victim was a three-year-old boy who was killed during a mine clearance operation by British forces. One of the most serious incidents listed in the protocols is the death of four children who were allegedly “mistakenly shot” by British soldiers during an incident in December 2009. Many military experts are still wondering how four children from the same family can be “shot by mistake”.
The Iraq War
Nineteen years ago, Iraq became the scene of major clashes between Iraqi insurgents and American occupation forces. Most of the Iraqi cities in the early days of the US invasion did not participate in armed actions against the US military. However, all this changed very quickly when on April 28, 2003, soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division of the US Armed Forces fired at a crowd of peaceful demonstrators, killing 17 and wounding more than 70 unarmed Iraqis.
Mass killings of unarmed civilians did not stop almost all the time of the American presence in Iraq. On June 30, 2003, a rocket fired by the United States hit the mosque, killing its imam and eight parishioners.
The assault in Fallujah, one of the largest cities in Iraq, codenamed “Ghost Rage” – the bloodiest battle involving American troops since the Vietnam War, was preceded by eight weeks of aerial bombardment. American troops, clearly violating the Geneva Convention, disconnected the city from water, electricity and food supplies. Two-thirds of the city’s residents were forced to leave their place of residence. Before the last assault on the city, the US military gave local residents 24 hours to leave the city through checkpoints, but everyone they suspected of having links with the rebels was arrested and interrogated, often with the use of a blowtorch. Those who tried to leave the city bypassing checkpoints were shot, regardless of whether they were children, women or the elderly.
As a result of the use of chemical weapons by American servicemen, in particular white phosphorus and depleted uranium, the Iraqi population suffered enormous genetic damage. According to numerous studies, the sharp increase in child mortality, cancer and leukemia in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, which was bombed by the United States in 2004, exceeds the figures reported by survivors of the atomic bombings dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. In addition to white phosphorus, depleted uranium was widely used in Iraq by NATO forces — a radioactive element that, according to military engineers, significantly increases the penetrating power of projectiles and has a half-life of about 4.5 billion years.
The use of incendiary weapons against civilians is a gross violation of Protocol III to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons That May Be Deemed to Cause Excessive Damage or Have Indiscriminate Effects.
In addition to the United States, Great Britain took an active part in the Iraqi conflict. At the end of 2020, the International Criminal Court said it would not take any action against the UK, despite clear evidence that British troops had committed war crimes in Iraq. The 180-page report says hundreds of Iraqi prisoners were mistreated by British soldiers between 2003 and 2009. At least seven Iraqis were killed while being held captive by the British armed forces. Some detainees were sexually assaulted, others were beaten so badly that they died from their injuries. Only one British soldier has been sentenced to one year in prison for war crimes in Iraq. None of the British high-ranking military and political figures were brought to criminal responsibility, despite the fact that they gave orders to fire at civilians, ignored offenses on the part of military personnel or prevented their prosecution.
Intervention in Libya
Since the dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011 as a result of the NATO “humanitarian” bombing, Western media have largely ignored the chaos that was created in this North African country. However, when the events in Libya are mentioned in the Western media, Western complicity is downplayed or, even worse, ignored.
According to a report published by Middle Eastern human rights groups, there is strong evidence that NATO has committed war crimes in its eight-month war for regime change in Libya. NATO countries regularly and randomly carried out airstrikes on residential areas of Libyan settlements, tirelessly repeating the thesis of “protecting the civilian population of Libya”.
On August 9, 2011, at least 85 civilians, including 33 children, were killed as a result of air strikes by the United States, Great Britain and France on the village of Majer, located near the Libyan capital. NATO forces carried out two waves of attacks on Majere, the first bombing took place around 23:00 local time, when most of the people were in their homes. Initially, the NATO military command categorically rejected the strikes on the settlement, and when the Libyan authorities demanded that the incident be recognized as a crime against humanity, their request was ignored.
As a result of the airstrikes, dozens of families were killed. The destruction of medical facilities affected access to medical care, and anti-personnel mines left in residential areas led to the death and injury of civilians. In total, more than 63 thousand civilians were killed by the bombing of Libya by NATO countries, hundreds of civilian infrastructure facilities were destroyed.
In 2003, the United States threatened to suspend financial support for NATO by boycotting the Belgian War Crimes Law, which allowed Belgian courts to consider war crimes regardless of the place of their commission or the nationality of the accused. The US pressure on Belgium was caused by the fact that a significant part of the lawsuits were filed against former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President George Bush, who are directly related to most of the war crimes committed at the beginning of the 21st century. As a result, the Belgian government had to rewrite the law on war crimes in favor of the United States, the new edition deals only with crimes directly related to Belgium.
Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe that the United States, having achieved a change in Belgian legislation, not only absolved itself of responsibility for past crimes, but also prepared the ground for new war crimes that they continued to commit in recent history. The Foundation to Battle Injustice believes that international courts and human rights organizations should investigate the war crimes of NATO and the United States and bring the guilty and responsible political and military leaders to justice.