9-8-2011By Crimes Against Humanity Program
Human Rights First
Despite United Nations sanctions against Libya, state-controlled Chinese firms offered Muammar Gaddafi huge weapons stockpiles in the final months of his regime.
In February of this year, the UN Security Council issued a resolution imposing an arms embargo on the (then) Libyan government as well as freezing the assets of Muammar Gaddafi and other senior regime officials, and referring him and two others officials to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the violent repression of civilian demonstrators. The resolution’s arms embargo clause mandates, “All Member States shall immediately take the necessary measures to prevent the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, from or through their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and related material of all types, including weapons and ammunition.”
However, documents obtained by The Globe and Mail suggest that Chinese arms manufacturers offered to sell upwards of $200-million worth of weapons and ammunition to Gaddafi-backed forces, as late as July—a clear violation of the February sanctions. While the documents do not indicate whether the military assistance was given, a review by senior leaders of the new transitional government allegedly confirms suspicions of cooperation between Gaddafi and Chinese state-owned enterprises regarding arms sales.
The disclosure of recent Chinese arms sales to Libya has only added to an obvious rift between China and Libyan rebels. China, which originally supported Gaddafi’s regime and condemned NATO airstrikes against his forces back in March, is now taking a more conciliatory approach toward the new government, for fear of losing out on oil and potentially lucrative development contracts. But the damage may already be done.
The National Transitional Council’s military committee chief, Omar Hariri, explained that brand-new weapons were used against his men, and he expressed his outrage at Chinese arms negotiations in the midst of heavy violence and in defiance of UN sanctions. Beijing denied knowledge of the sales but has since vowed to tighten its procedures for selling weapons abroad – a step that would have far-reaching effects, if it follows through on its promise.
Chinese-Libyan arms deals are not the only illicit deals that have been exposed during the Arab Spring. Other supply chains that help perpetuate violence and facilitate crimes against civilians have also come to light. For example, China is in the company of Russia, which was called out recently as “a partner in killing the Syrian people” due to weapons sales to pro-government forces. As instability and unrest persist in North Africa and the Middle East, it is important that the international community apply all possible pressure to the enablers that continue to facilitate violence against civilians.