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US judge refuses Haftar case involving war crimes allegations

April 15, 2024 at 3:14 pm

Libya’s eastern military chief Khalifa Haftar in the eastern city of Benghazi on 16 November 2021 [ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP via Getty Images]

A US judge has dismissed several civil lawsuits against former Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar who is currently residing in Virginia. He had been accused of war crimes in his home country’s civil war, including involvement in the deaths of civilians.

According to AP, at a court hearing on Friday, District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she had no jurisdiction to preside over a case alleging war crimes committed in the North African country, even though the defendant has US citizenship and lived for more than 20 years in the northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital as an exile during the rule of late dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Brinkema reversed her previous decision against Haftar, which included a default judgement in 2022 due to his refusal to participate in scheduled depositions. Haftar returned to Libya in 2011 to join the anti-government forces and later commanded the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) during the country’s civil war.

Filed in 2019, the lawsuits accused Haftar of killing family members through military bombardments in civilian areas and claimed that he and his family owned substantial property in Virginia. However, despite the dismissal of the lawsuits on jurisdictional grounds, Haftar’s lawyer said he denied any involvement in civilian deaths and refuted claims portraying him as a ruthless figure.

On Saturday, the Libya Observer, citing the head of the Libyan-American Alliance, Issam Omeish, disclosed news of the court’s decision. In a statement on his official Facebook account, Omeish expressed his astonishment at this decision, describing it as surprising and unexpected.

According to Omeish the judge dismissed the case, determining that it did not fall within the scope of the Torture Victims’ Protection Act (TVPA). He believes it would hinder the alliance’s efforts to prosecute Libyan war criminals and violators of human rights. Omiesh also announced his intention to file an appeal through his lawyers within 30 days.

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