Today Wikileaks released two classified EU documents, outlining the planned military intervention against boats travelling from Libya to Italy. The more significant of the two documents was written by the combined military defence chiefs of the EU member states. The documents lay out a military operation against cross-Mediterranean refugee transport networks and infrastructure. They detail plans to conduct military operations to destroy boats used for transporting migrants and refugees in Libyan territory, thereby preventing them from reaching Europe. Links to both documents are provided below. In addition we provide links to other, related documents, mostly sourced by Statewatch, one of which quotes Northwood (UK) as a command HQ for the mission – which also happens to be the main base for NATO maritime counter-terrorism ops (see below for more links/documents on this).
Here, also, is an extract from a secret document outlining the EU military ‘mission’ against Libya. In this document the EU mission is defined as: “To provide surveillance, intelligence gathering and sharing, and assessment of smuggling activity towards and through the Southern Central Mediterranean Area, and to stop, board, search and dispose of, possibly through their destruction, trafficking vessels and assets before use and thereby contribute to EU efforts to disrupt the business model of trafficking networks”.
The document goes on to outline how there would be four phases of the ‘mission’: ‘(1) a deployment and assessment phase, (2) an operational/seizure (of smuggled vessels) phase; (3) an operational/disruption phase, (4) a mission withdrawal and completion phase.
The document also refers to a claim that there is a UNSCR mandate under Chapter VII or a Libyan invitation to enter into the sovereign waters of Libya to act against smuggling ships…
“There is a legal basis for the destruction of smugglers vessels and assets: – either through International Law, complemented by Domestic Law measures, including appropriate judicial decisions (2000 UN Protocol against Smuggling) for the destruction of smugglers vessels and assets on the High Seas, it being understood that such a measure is feasible against a ship flying the flag of a State only with the consent of this State; – or through a UNSCR adopted under chapter VII against ships the flag State of which has not given its assent or against ships without nationality.”
On military ops, the document adds… “Any destruction ashore, ideally underpinned by local consent and cooperation, could include action along the coast, in harbour or at anchor of smugglers assets and vessels before their use (including ships in transit to the identified migration embarkation points) subject to the existence of appropriate legal safeguards.”
The document raises various risks to the ‘mission’, including ‘casualties’: “Any casualties as a result of EU action could trigger a negative response from the local population and the wider region, jeopardising support and follow-up.”
Northwood & NATO role?
According to the document quoted above, the operational centre for the ‘mission’ is likely to be Northwood, which includes the Multi National Headquarters for the command of European Union military operations, the Commander Operations for the Royal Navy and – significantly – NATO’s Allied Maritime Command (MARCOM).
MARCOM is responsible for planning and conducting all NATO maritime operations. Currently, this includes the Alliance’s Counter Piracy Operation OCEAN SHIELD, as well as its Counter-Terrorism Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR (OAE) in the Mediterranean. Operation Active Endeavour (OAE) is a maritime surveillance operation led by NATO’s naval forces to detect, deter and protect against terrorist activity in the Mediterranean through monitoring, patrolling, escorting and compliant boarding. Initially limited to the Eastern Mediterranean, OAE was extended to the entire Mediterranean from March 2004. The operation was one of eight measures taken by NATO to support the United States following the 11 September 2001 attacks, and is currently NATO’s only counter-terrorism operation. Many non-NATO partner countries have also contributed to OAE in support of NATO’s operational activities against terrorism.
The Commander MARCOM is the prime maritime advisor to NATO. Like its land and air counterparts (LANDCOM & AIRCOM), MARCOM answers directly to NATO’s Allied Command Operations (ACO) which is located in Mons, Belgium. Under Operation Active Endeavour, NATO forces have hailed over 122,000 merchant vessels and boarded some 166 suspect ships. In February, Operation Active Endeavour transferred to Maritime Command Northwood (MARCOM) after being handed over from Joint Force Command Naples.
OAE was initially designed as an operation utilising ships, aircraft and submarines of the two Standing NATO Maritime Groups in rotation. These Forces conduct presence and surveillance activities including the hailing, and compliant boarding, of selected vessels. The current modus operandi for OAE is to gather and process information and intelligence to build a picture of all maritime traffic in the Mediterranean Sea with a selective focus on particular Contacts of Interest. Building on the experience developed over the years, the operation is becoming network-based and no longer relies on permanently assigned units. However, it continues to conduct ‘surge’ operations and remains prepared to carry out at-sea inspections. New technologies, exploitation of developments in surveillance and information sharing capabilities, closer cooperation and information sharing with Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) and Partnership for Peace (PfP) countries have enabled this transition. A combination of surge operations and standby units will replace permanently deployed forces
Here is the Mediterranean maritime security chart used by NATO.