Libya: Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court visits mass graves in Tarhuna

المقابر الجماعية في ليبيا

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Mr. Karim Khan, confirmed, in a briefing to the UN Security Council from Tripoli, Libya, that he had obtained evidence related to violations committed by the forces of retired Major General Khalifa Haftar, including extrajudicial killings, kidnapping, sexual violence, kidnapping, mutilation of corpses, enforced disappearance, hostage-taking and looting, as well as indiscriminate airstrikes, use of mines, human rights violations during military trials of civilians and destruction of property.

The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mr. Karim Khan, informed the Security Council of his visit to sites in Tarhuna where mass graves were found saying that he saw a "miserable scene" of metal boxes where people were forced to enter and live in an "extremely appalling condition" amounting to “calculated inhumanity”. He also mentioned visiting farms that have turned into mass graves and landfill sites "where bodies were thrown without (burial) ceremonies." He praised the work of Libyan forensic experts who removed piles of rubbish including "dead dogs and goats" to find the bodies which now numbered more than 250, many of which have yet to be identified.

Alkarama had shed light on crimes committed by the forces of retired Major General Khalifa Haftar with the support of Arab governments. Every now and then, Libya witnesses assassinations of field commanders in Haftar's forces who are wanted for international crimes for their involvement in war crimes including field executions against civilians.

Alkarama had expressed its concern about these assassinations, which could be part of a plan to liquidate the witnesses against the major criminals sought by the justice system and their regional and international supporters.

In this context, Alkarama wrote to a number of UN bodies concerned with the situation in Libya, especially the Fact-Finding Mission on Libya established by the Human Rights Council to investigate these assassinations and reveal their circumstances.

During his visit, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mr. Karim Khan, also met with the families of the victims in Tarhuna who, according to him, reported heartbreaking testimonies.

The latter expressed that the commitment to obtain justice "is not an abstract idea and is really very important" adding that "the victims want the truth to be obtained, their voices to be heard, and the allegations to be tried legally by independent and impartial judges."

He stressed that the international community cannot allow "a feeling that impunity is inevitable to spread," noting that the new road map that was defined in his report issued last April would give results and greater transparency to the work of the International Criminal Court.

The Prosecutor announced that other requests for arrest warrants had been submitted to the independent judges of the ICC but did not go into detail due to the confidential nature of these requests. He said that more arrest requests representing a "new model of work" would be submitted by his office and emphasized that this increased momentum could only have been achieved in partnership with stakeholders in Libya, particularly the work of Mr. Mohamed Younis Al-Munfi, President of the Libyan Presidential Council.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has compiled a list charging Mahmoud Al Werfalli, among the top advisors to General Khalifa Haftar, suspected of killing more than 40 prisoners. Al Werfalli notably appears in a video related to a 2018 incident in which he shoots 10 blindfolded prisoners.

On March 24, 2021, Al Werfalli was murdered under mysterious circumstances that may be part of the process of neutralizing the "enforcers" of the Libyan scene in order to whitewash the image of senior leaders and evade their responsibility for crimes as masterminds.

On July 27, 2021, the leader of Haftar's militia, accused of war crimes, Muhammad Al Kani, and one of his companions were also shot and killed at their place of residence in the Boatni area, southeast of Benghazi. Al-Kani who was one of the leaders of General Khalifa Haftar was also in charge of the 9th infantry brigade in the city of Tarhuna known as Al Kaniyat militia. Al-Kani was one of those wanted by the International Criminal Court and accused by the Libyan prosecution of committing mass murders in Tarhuna, southeast of the capital, Tripoli.

Haftar's militia is supported by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia and France.