April 24, 2020
Further violations of international law by Wagner as it used chemical weapons in Libya
The Libyan interior minister, Fathi Bashaga, accused the private military company (PMC) Wagner Group to have used chemical weapons against Government of National Accord (GNA) soldiers.
According to the Libyan government, their forces were targeted with nerve gas by Khalifa Haftar’s forces. It is very likely that the Haftar forces benefitted from foreign support to acquire the weapons, as they do not control infrastructures necessary for the production of such chemical weapons. Indeed, this requires plants like fertilizer factories. Wagner allegedly has the capacity to produce such weapons, thanks to its effective control of several territories in Africa and Syria
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) entered into force in 1997 and prohibits the use of such weapons. Russia is a signatory. As a member of the UN Security Council, it has a special responsibility in protecting populations from such weapons and should therefore put special efforts in making its PMCs accountable.
However, Russian president Vladimir Putin completely and repeatedly denies that Russian PMCs are present in Libya. He says that Russia is not using any mercenaries in foreign countries. The Russian government insists that any Russian national who is present in Libya does not represent the Russian federation and is not paid by the state.
With Russia denying any form of involvement, it is difficult to see how the international community can solve the problem of chemical weapons being used by Wagner. One can only imagine meetings between closed doors, with confidential evidence and tradeoffs compelling Russia to stop intervening through its mercenaries. Until this is done, our role as NGOs is to publish evidence and make information widely available, so that Russia will see the costs of engaging through Wagner to its image.