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US blacklists Haftar-affiliated armed groups for enforced disappearances, murder

TARHUNAH, LIBYA - NOVEMBER 07: [EDITORS NOTE: Image depicts death] Forensic medicine officials conduct excavation works at a mass grave in Tarhunah, Libya on November 07, 2020. A large number of bodies of men and women have been found one after another in excavations since June. ( Mücahit Aydemir - Anadolu Agency )
Forensic medicine officials conduct excavation works at a mass grave in Tarhunah, Libya on November 07, 2020 [Mücahit Aydemir - Anadolu Agency]

The US decided on Wednesday to blacklist one of the armed groups supporting General Khalifa Haftar, after Russia prevented a United Nations (UN) Security Council committee last week from imposing sanctions on the faction for human rights violations.

The US decision to blacklist Al-Kaniyat armed group and its leader Mohammed Al-Kani is part of the Magnitsky Act, which allows the US government to prosecute human rights violators around the world by freezing their assets and prohibiting US citizens from trading with them.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin affirmed in a statement that the US believes that: "Mohammed Al-Kani and Al-Kaniyat group have tortured and killed civilians during a brutal crackdown in Libya."

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This month, the US and Germany have proposed to the UN Security Council's sanctions committee, composed of 15 member states, to freeze the assets of Al-Kaniyat armed group and impose a travel ban on its members and leader.

To pass the resolution unanimously approval would be required. However, Russia stated that voting for the imposition of sanctions depends on firstly obtaining more evidence to prove the faction's involvement in causing civilian fatalities.

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The sanctions proposal presented by the US and Germany suggested that international human rights organisations and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL): "Had received reports about hundreds of human rights violations committed by Al-Kaniyat militia against individuals, government officials, fighters and civil society activists in Tarhuna."

In the special proposal, the two countries also stated: "Reports indicate that Al-Kaniyat militia headed by Mohammed Al-Kani had committed enforced disappearances, torture and murder," at a time when UNSMIL confirmed that Al-Kaniyat faction had perpetrated multiple extrajudicial executions in Tarhuna on 13 September, 2019.

Mass graves

The Libyan city of Tarhuna, which was again under the control of the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in June 2020, was previously seized by Al-Kaniyat militia led by the local Al-Kani family, who fought alongside the forces of Haftar.

In the past two weeks, the Libyan authorities have exhumed 12 bodies from four more unidentified graves in Tarhuna, to be added to the hundreds of bodies that have already been discovered since the liberation of the area in June.

Libya's commission for identifying missing persons had previously reported recovering around 230 bodies from mass graves, mostly in Tarhuna.

According to Libyan sources, many of the victims found in Tarhuna's mass graves were executed by a firing squad, and some were buried alive, while others were subjected to horrific torture by Haftar's loyalists.

Last month, the parties to the war in the country, namely the GNA and the Libyan National Army (LNA), agreed to a ceasefire.

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