Three lawsuits in U.S. federal court represent an inflection point in the global effort to hold Libyan war criminals legally accountable for torture and extrajudicial killings.
This oil-rich, North-African country gained independence in 1951 under King Idris. But the monarcy was short-lived as Idris was overthrown in a military coup d'état led by the eccentric Muammar Gaddafi. Gaddafi's 42-year rule came to a sudden end in 2011 when mass protests turned to civil war, and an international coalition intervened to protect the city of Benghazi from massacre. Although authorized by the Security Council, the intervention's apparent role in effecting regime change has infuriated countries like China and Russia, and the duration of American participation has raised questions about compliance with the War Powers Act. Since the intervention, Libya has slipped into chaos, and in 2012, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi in 2012 setting off debates and Congressional inquiries that continue today.