Libya: Execution of former Defence minister Al Mahdi Al Barghathi referred to the UN


On 27 December 2023, Alkarama urgently submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, the case of the former Libyan Minister of Defence, Mr Al Mahdi AL BARGHATHI, who was allegedly executed after being arrested with his companions on 6 October 2023 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). 

Although uncertainty persists over the situation of his companions, the death of the former minister was announced to his family by the Tripoli prosecutor general, confirming his family's fear that he would be executed by Saddam Haftar's militias. 

Abducted by the militia "Tariq bin Ziyad" on his return to Benghazi 

Alkarama had initially submitted the case of the former minister and his companions to the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances in an urgent appeal on 12 December 2023 for them to be located and placed under the protection of the law. 

All of them were abducted on 6 October 2023, while they were at the house of Mr AL BARGHATHI's mother in Salmani Al-Sharqi, a residential area of Benghazi, at around 5.30 pm, while he was receiving relatives who had come to welcome him to Benghazi. Prior to his appointment as defence minister in 2016, Mr AL BARGHATHI was the commander of the 204th Tank Battalion in Benghazi and an influential member of the Al Awaqir tribe. He moved to Tripoli after the formation of the Government of National Accord led by Mr. Fayez Al Sarraj. 

In 2019, Mr 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 discussion, he finally granted this request and returned to Benghazi on 6 October 2023. 

Uncertainty over former minister's fate 

In the aftermath of the attack, the de facto authorities in Benghazi said in a press conference that Mr AL BARGHATHI had been arrested after refusing to surrender following the presentation of an arrest warrant by the militias. However, those present testified that he had not been served with an arrest warrant prior to his arrest. 

Following the abduction of Mr AL BARGHATHI and his companions, their families filed complaints with the United Nations in Libya and the Prosecutor General's Office, to no avail. 

The former minister's family was informed a few days later by the Benghazi authorities that one of his sons, also abducted, had died in the attack and issued a burial permit upon handing over the body to them. However, they forbade the family from seeing him and ordered his immediate burial under heavy surveillance. 

Recently, the Attorney General informed Mr AL BARGHATHI's family that he had also died and had been buried without providing further explanation or revealing where the body had been buried. The authorities' refusal to hand over the former minister's body to his family has raised doubts among his relatives about the reality of his death, especially since a video filmed by militiamen showed him being taken away safe and sound by militiamen of the "Tariq bin Ziyad Brigade". 

However, if the death of the former minister were to be confirmed, there is no doubt that he was summarily executed by the militia of Khalifa Hafter's son. 

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions referred to by Alkarama 

In view of the risk that Mr AL BARGHATHI's companions would suffer the same fate, Alkarama urgently requested the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions to urge the authorities in Benghazi to determine the fate and place of detention of all the disappeared persons and to place them under the protection of the law. 

Alkarama also demanded that the Libyan authorities be called upon to carry out an immediate independent and impartial investigation into the circumstances of Mr AL BARGHATHI's death and that, in the event that his death is confirmed, that his remains be returned to the family with respect for his dignity and after an autopsy has been carried out. 

Alkarama stressed the need for the Libyan authorities to shed light on the circumstances of the death of Mr. Al Mahdi AL BARGHATHI and to sanction those responsible, namely the militias of the "Tariq bin Ziyad Brigade" and their direct leader, Saddam Haftar.