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Lawyers blast Libya’s inability to investigate war criminals

Building of the International Criminal Court [File photo]
Building of the International Criminal Court [File photo]

Libya cannot investigate cases of war crimes and human rights violators in the country because there is no independent body able to carry out a probe, Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) has said.

The country’s leading human rights lawyers have argued that the lack of an independent body to investigate recent cases of mass killings and war criminals in the country means that the main task of investigation must fall on the International Criminal Court (ICC).

LFJL Director Elham Saudi explained how the recent massacre over the weekend near the city of Benghazi was “another example of the impunity enjoyed by armed groups in Libya” and that promises to investigate the serious violations since the uprising in 2011 have failed to hold any individual accountable for the murder, torture and abuse of civilians.

Thirty-six bodies were discovered in Al-Abyar near Benghazi last week which bore the signs of summary executions and torture. Both the UN-backed Government of National Accord in the capital Tripoli and rival authority Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar vowed to investigate the killings with the pressure of the UN calling for more to be done to hold individuals to account.

Read more: Libya mass grave discovered near Benghazi

“Given the total lack of deterrence mechanisms on the ground,” Saudi continued, “there is an urgent need for the ICC proactively to pursue accountability in Libya and deter the commission of further crimes.”

The ICC previously released an arrest warrant for Saiqa Forces Commander Mahmoud Werfalli after a video was uploaded online which allegedly shows him directing the execution of dozens of prisoners before firing the last round of shots to the remaining detainees.

However the Libyan National Army has failed to hand Werfalli over or to adequately investigate the war crime as well as the numerous incidents during the army’s takeover of Benghazi which showed militants executed and their bodies dragged through the streets.

The LFJL’s stance echoes UNSMIL Chief Ghassan Salamé’s despair following the mass killings last week that no one has been held accountable for any of the massacres and summary executions carried out in recent years.

Read: Libya’s Haftar joins Tripoli government in investigating mass execution

The LFJL also criticised Libya’s public prosecutor for failing to take any steps to investigate the numerous cases over the last six years.

“This has perpetuated the culture of impunity and the institutionalisation for human rights violations by the Libyan state,” the group said.

Libya descended in to lawlessness when Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was killed in a NATO-backed revolution in 2011. Uncontrolled factions have since fought for power with war breaking out between different alliances and Libya’s tribal factions. The UN-backed Government of National Accord chosen to implement law and order in the country has failed to ensure its legitimacy.

There are currently three governments in the country with Brigadier General Khalifa Haftar heading one in Benghazi, the UN-backed Government of National Accord in Tripoli headed by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj, and the Tobruk-based government of Abdullah Al-Thinni.

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