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Russia stops UN blacklisting of Libya militia, leader

A view of Al-Watiya airbase, previously occupied by Khalifa Haftar's militias, is seen after the Libyan army retook it as part of its 'Volcano of Rage' Operation in Tripoli, Libya on May 18, 2020 [Hazem Turkia / Anadolu Agency]
A view of Al-Watiya airbase, previously occupied by Khalifa Haftar's militias, is seen after the Libyan army retook it as part of its 'Volcano of Rage' Operation in Tripoli, Libya on May 18, 2020 [Hazem Turkia / Anadolu Agency]

Russia on Friday stopped a UN Security Council committee from blacklisting a Libyan militia group and its leader for human rights abuses because it said it wanted to see more evidence first that they had killed civilians.

The United States and Germany proposed that the council's 15-member Libya sanctions committee impose an asset freeze and travel ban on the al-Kaniyat militia and its leader Mohammed al-Kani. Such a move has to be agreed upon by consensus, but Russia said it could not approve.

"Our support in the future is possible, but conditioned by provision of an irrefutable evidence of their involvement in the killing of civilian populations," a Russian diplomat told his Security Council colleagues in a note seen by Reuters.

The Libyan city of Tarhouna, which was recaptured in June by the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), had for years been controlled by the Kaniyat militia run by the local Kani family, which fought alongside Khalifa Haftar's eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).

Last month Libyan authorities dug 12 bodies from four more unmarked graves in Tarhouna, adding to the scores of corpses already discovered since June.

READ: Russia praises Sarraj's 'reasonable' decision to retract resignation

Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Last month the two major sides in the country's war – the GNA and the LNA – agreed to a ceasefire.

Turkey backs the GNA. Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt support the LNA. Those foreign powers have been cited in earlier UN documents as supplying weapons in defiance of the arms embargo.

The United States and Germany wrote in their sanctions proposal that international human rights groups and the UN political mission in Libya, known as UNSMIL, has "received reports of hundreds of human rights abuses perpetrated by the al-Kaniyat militia against private individuals, state officials, captured fighters, and civil society activists in Tarhouna."

"Under Mohammed al-Kani's leadership, the al-Kaniyat militia has reportedly carried out enforced disappearances, torture, and killings. In addition, UNSMIL verified numerous summary executions at Tarhouna Prison conducted by the al-Kaniyat militia on September 13, 2019," the proposal read.

Who benefited from the Libya conference in Berlin? - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Who benefited from the Libya conference in Berlin? – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

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