This article addresses the operational challenges of the law on air warfare during NATO operation Unified Protector (OUP), which was aimed at protecting the Libyan people under the mandate provided by the UN Security Council. The conduct of OUP resulted in the use of force against the Gadaffi-led government of Libya. The authors argue that the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I applied because of the existence of an international armed conflict, to which, among others, NATO as an international organization was a party. The mandate of the UN Security Council provided for the enforcement of an arms embargo and a No-Fly Zone. The arms embargo was (also) enforced in international airspace and waters. The conduct of OUP forces while enforcing the embargo may have been subject to the laws of armed conflict and guided by the law of neutrality, but the wording of the UN Security Council Resolutions certainly limited the permissible use of force. With regard to the No-Fly Zone there are different perspectives on civilian aircraft violating the No-Fly Zone and their status under the laws of armed conflict. The prevailing perspective is that the mere presence of a civilian aircraft in such a zone, does not render it a military objective. Although OUP raised many legal questions, the authors conclude that the conduct of OUP forces has shown that the legal complexity did not lead to violations of the law.
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