THE FAMILIES OF VICTIMS of a US drone strike in Libya in November 2018 have filed a criminal complaint against the commander of Italian Naval Air Station Sigonella used to carry out the strike.

The complaint accuses the Italian commander of the unlawful use of force under both international and Italian domestic law.

Many of the eleven people killed on 29 November 2018 were current or former members of the Libyan national army. All were allies of the US and the Libyan Government of National Accord and some had fought directly against terrorist groups. US Africa Command (AFRICOM) acknowledged the strike but claimed that those killed were members of Al Qaeda, an accusation strongly disputed by the community to this day. No independent investigation has been carried out into the strike, despite repeated promises by the Government of Libya to do so.

The Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily plays a vital role in the US drone program. Since 2014, the Italian government has allowed the US to launch strikes in Libya from the base. Those strikes, however, must first be approved by the Italian commander, who has a duty to oversee all significant US activities, including drone strikes.

Madogaz Musa Abdullah, one of the complainants, lost his brother Nasser, in the strike. Nasser was 34 years old and a member of the national Armed Forces of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord.

Madogaz said: “AFRICOM killed innocent people. They claimed that our sons were terrorists and ended their lives without any evidence. We want the Italian government to listen to us and to stop AFRICOM from killing our people. We call on both governments to apologise and for the Italian government to open a transparent investigation and to hold to account those responsible for authorising the strike.”

The community is joined in the complaint by the human rights organisations Rete Italiana Pace e Disarmo, Reprieve, and the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR)

“Clearly, a drone operation implying lethal force is not routine”, said Chantal Meloni, Legal Advisor at ECCHR. “While AFRICOM is directly responsible, the Italian commander must have known about and approved the operation, and can therefore be criminally responsible as an accomplice for having allowed the unlawful lethal attack. This would be a violation of international law and the right to life.”

Jennifer Gibson, who leads Reprieve’s work on lethal force, said: “Nearly four years have passed since these lives were ended without warning by a US drone launched from Italian soil. Fathers, sons and brothers have been ripped from this community in an instant, leaving nothing but enduring grief and unresolved questions. The families they left behind desperately need answers – and for someone to be held accountable for this senseless loss of life.”

The criminal complaint on Italy’s involvement in the US drone programme is part of ECCHR and Reprieve and Rete Disarmo legal interventions to counter human rights violations the US commits in the name of counterterrorism.

* Source: Reprieve