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Aisha Gaddafi v. North Atlantic Treaty Organization

Court Not applicable. Decision not to proceed was taken in Belgium
Decision date 27 July 2011
  • Aisha Gaddafi
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Categories War crimes
Keywords war crimes, Libya, NATO
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On 7 June 2011, Aisha Gaddafi, the daughter of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, filed a claim against NATO in Belgium. She argued that the NATO bombing in Tripoli on 30 April 2011 killed her daughter, her brother and other family members. Aisha Gaddafi asserted that the NATO forces specifically attacked the building that was not used in support of any military action. She claimed that the bombing constituted war crimes.

On 27 July 2011, the Belgium prosecutors announced that they decline to investigate the complaint on the basis of the absence of connection between the victims or the defendants and Belgium. 

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Procedural history

On 7 June 2011, Aisha Gaddafi filed a complaint against NATO over the bombing of a building in Gaddafi's compound that allegedly killed the youngest son of Colonel Gaddafi, Seif al-Arab, 29, and three grandchildren of the Libyan leader: Seif (2 years), Carthage (2 years) and Mastoura (4 months), as well as friends and neighbors. She claimed that "in her capacity as a mother, an aunt and a sister, suffered considerable prejudice". In addition, she asserted that the attack constituted a war crime because the air strike did not target a military objective but a civilian building. Gaddafi's lawyers filed the petitions in Brussels and Paris. The complaint in Paris was made against NATO, France, the French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet and the President Nicolas Sarkozy. The latter three defendants were accused of supporting the NATO operations of "war crimes" and "assassination."

On 27 July 2011, it was reported that Belgian prosecutors declined to investigate the war crimes complaint filed by Gaddafi against NATO, saying that the requirement of their country's universal competence law for establishment of a connection between a defendant and Belgium, is not satisfied in this case.

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Related developments

A complaint against NATO was also filed by another Libyan national seeking damages against the alliance over a June 20 bombing, which allegedly killed his wife and three small children.

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Legally relevant facts

Muammar Gaddafi's daughter Aisha Gaddafi filed a lawsuit for murder as a war crime following the death of four members of her family including her four month old daughter Mastoura during a NATO air strike on 30 April 2011. During the bombing raid, Aisha's brother Saif el-Arab, as well as three of Gaddafi's grandchildren were killed.

The accusations of war crimes allegedly committed by the NATO forces is based on Aisha's allegations that they did not select military targets but intentionally targeted a private residence: "The target was a civil building inhabited by civilians and was neither a command post nor a military control [centre] of the Libyan regime".

As NATO has its headquarters in Belgium, the plaintiff used this fact to claim that the universal jurisdiction law applied and that the Belgium courts could continue with the case.

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Core legal questions

  • Did the NATO bombings in Tripoli on 30 April 2011 constitute a war crime?
  • Should the prosecutors proceed with the complaint?

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Court's holding and analysis

The Belgian federal prosecutor's office stated that the court had no jurisdiction because neither the victims nor the accused were Belgian, and that the alliance officials have diplomatic immunity. As a result, the Belgian prosecutors declined to investigate the complaint of Aisha Gaddafi.

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Additional materials

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