Civilian deaths are a far-too-common occurrence in wars, but the victims’ families rarely receive justice. Khalid el Hamidi, a retired Libyan general and member of the government’s Revolutionary Council, has filed a civil lawsuit against NATO for killing 13 civilians. Two NATO bombs destroyed his home in Surman on June 20 at 2:30 a.m., resulting in the deaths of Hamidi’s relatives, three children, and household help. As AP reports :
At the time, NATO acknowledged it had targeted the compound but described it as a “command and control” center. [Hamidi’s lawyer] Ceccaldi said it was a residence in a quiet civilian neighborhood and was therefore not a legitimate target under the Geneva Convention on the rules of war.
Ceccaldi also urged the International Criminal Court to take the Hamidi case, which he called an “evident war crime.” He said the court should consider NATO’s commanders as liable for the actions of their subordinates, such as air force bombers.
Hamidi filed the lawsuit in Belgium because, although NATO and other international organizations have diplomatic immunity in criminal cases, the Brussels-based group can still be tried in Belgian civil suits. Hamidi’s lawyers have requested that the Brussels District Court send two experts to Libya “to assess physical and psychological damage from the attack” and determine estimated monetary compensation.
While it is relatively unlikely that Hamidi will successfully hold NATO accountable, it is impossible that any amount of money could match the immeasurable grief and devastation caused by the bombs. Hamidi lost his home and his family, and his country continues to be torn apart by war. Given the millions of dollars the United States pours every year into new military technologies, the “accidental” bombing of civilian residences is hard to bear.