Libya: The Enforced Disappearance of Former Defence Minister Al Mahdi Al Barghathi and His Companions Submitted to the UN


On 12 December 2023, Alkarama urgently submitted to  the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, the situation of Mr. Al Mahdi AL BARGHATHI, former Minister of Defence of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and that of his companions, all of whom disappeared on 6 October 2023 after being abducted by members of the "Tariq bin Ziyad Brigade", a militia led by Khalifa Haftar's son, Saddam Haftar, in the Al-Salmani Al-Sharqi neighborhood of Benghazi (eastern Libya). 

Disappeared after being abducted by the "Tariq bin Ziyad" militia 

Prior to his appointment as Minister of Defence in 2016, Mr. Al Mahdi AL BARGHATHI was the Commander of the 204th Tank Battalion in Benghazi and an influential member of the Al Awaqir tribe. He moved to the city of Tripoli after the formation of the GNA led by Mr. Fayez AL SARRAJ. 

In 2019, AL BARGHATHI openly opposed General Khalifa Haftar's war against Tripoli and called on the Libyan people to disengage their sons from the battle. Since then, he has been targeted by Khalifa Haftar and accused by the latter of supporting terrorism. 

After his departure from the GNA, several Libyan tribes in the Eastern Province tried to persuade him to return to Benghazi after negotiating guarantees for his safety and that of his relatives with Khalifa Haftar. After more than a year of discussions, he finally granted this request and returned to Benghazi on 6 October 2023. 

Upon arrival in the city, he went to his mother's house in Salmani Al-Sharqi, a residential area of Benghazi. At around 5:30 p.m., while receiving relatives who had come to welcome him, a large group of heavily armed militiamen from the Tariq bin Ziyad brigade burst into the family home, shot at the guests and abducted the former minister and several other people present, including his close companions, Abdulaziz Alhasouni Mohammed IMBARAK, Ali Mohamed Ali BUKHATWA,  Fathi Fouzi Alhasouni MOHAMMED, Mohammed Faraj Milad AL BARAKI, Seraj Soliman Saleh SOLIMAN, Younus Salim Younus ABDULAZIZ and Sanid Sulayman Salih SULAYMAN. 

The militiamen set fire to several cars before taking the victims to an unknown destination. During the attack, many of those present, including women and children, were injured, killed or abducted by the militiamen, including Mr. AL BARGHATHI's wife, mother and sisters, who were held incommunicado and tortured for several days before being released. 

In the aftermath of the attack, authorities in Benghazi said at a press conference that Mr. AL BARGHATHI had been arrested after he refused to surrender following the service of an arrest warrant. However, those present unanimously testified that no arrest warrant had been presented by the armed men at the time of his abduction. 

Following the abduction of Mr. AL BARGHATHI and his companions, the families concerned requested the intervention of the United Nations Office in Tripoli, the International Red Cross and the Prosecutor General, but to no avail. 

Uncertainty over the fate of Mr. Al Barghathi 

While the whereabouts of Mr. AL BARGHATHI's companions remain completely unknown, the former minister's family has been notified by the authorities controlled by Khalifa Haftar that he died during the attack. However, a video filmed during the attack shows the gunmen taking the former minister away unharmed. 

In addition, the Benghazi authorities' absolute ban on relatives seeing the body handed over to them before burial has raised doubts among family members who remain convinced that he is still alive. 

If his death were to be confirmed by means of an independent forensic examination, it could only be an extrajudicial execution for which General Khalifa Haftar and his son Saddam would bear full responsibility. 

Alkarama addresses the Working Group 

Faced with the denial of the authorities' refusal to provide any information and given the urgency of the situation, Alkarama turned to the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions so that families are informed as soon as possible of the fate of their disappeared relatives and that they are placed under the protection of the law.