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Rights lawyers pressure ICC to try Haftar for war crimes

Commander of the Libyan national army and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar [SMM Libya‏/Twitter]

A group of European civil rights lawyers representing the victims of abuse in Libya have demanded that the International Criminal Court (ICC) consider prosecuting armed forces Commander-in-Chief Khalifa Haftar.

The UK-based Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers has taken legal steps to pressure ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to investigate Haftar’s responsibility for the actions of the troops he heads as part of the Libyan National Army who have been accused of war crimes in the past.

Guernica 37, which was named after the Spanish Civil War bombing of the Basque town of Guernica in 1937 which killed hundreds of civilians, further added:

Hundreds of civilians have been deliberately targeted by those forces resulting in their murder, torture and displacement.

“We are acting on behalf of a number of victims. We cannot of course disclose their identities but we can confirm that we are acting on behalf of a number of direct victims (victims of actual attacks) and indirect victims (persons whose family members disappeared or were killed),” the group told the Libya Herald.

Read more: Lawyers blast Libya’s inability to investigate war criminals

Guernica 37 will be issuing a preliminary filing against Haftar and if Bensouda considers there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation, under Article 15 of the ICC’s founding document, the Rome Statute, she will launch a Pre-Trial Chamber to authorise the investigation of Haftar.

The ICC this year issued a warrant for the arrest of Saiqa Special Forces major Mahmoud Warfali for his alleged role in summary executions of dozens of prisoners dressed in orange which was filmed and uploaded online.

The Saiqa Special Forces is a Libyan National Army unit under the command of Haftar who has since refused to hand over Warfalli for investigation instead issuing its own internal investigation which has failed to charge anyone.

Libya’s growing mass execution scene

Barely two weeks since news surfaced that 36 bodies were found tortured and shot in the head near a road side near the city of Benghazi, 28 bodies with bullet holes have been discovered in the west of the country.

According to the Libyan National Commission for Human Rights’ (LNCHR), the victims, who were found beside a road in Alhira, 60 kilometres from the capital Tripoli, were believed to be men captured during recent fighting in the Wirshefana area.

“We have received information that several Wirshifana military officials were killed and their bodies were desecrated…after they had been detained by the joint forces under the Zintan Military Council’s command in cooperation with the Presidential Council’s western military zone,” the LNCHR explained.

The group called for an immediate investigation by the attorney-general and by UNSMIL and questioned why relatives had been refused permission to see and bury their dead.

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