Cairo – Libyan National Army (LNA) forces, led by Khalifa Haftar, may have committed war crimes, including killing and beating civilians, executing, and desecrating bodies of opposition fighters in the eastern city of Benghazi on and around March 18, 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
In a report issued on Wednesday, the New York based non-governmental organization said that Haftar should order a full and transparent investigation into recent alleged crimes by forces under his command, and hold those responsible to account.
HRW stated that it had received videos and phone calls from locals and activists in Ganfouda neighborhood that shows the bodies of Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC) fighters being desecrated. The Organization’s researchers were unable to verify the date and location of the incidents.
Joe Stork, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at HRW, stated that the LNA leadership needs to respond urgently to these deeply disturbing allegations by investigating the suspected perpetrators, including senior military commanders who may bear individual responsibility.
Haftar issued an order to all security forces to release families that had been used as human shields by terrorists. He instructed all forces to treat women with respect and appreciate them and release unless they were linked to criminal cases as per the Libyan law.
Meanwhile, Russia denied deploying troops and drones on the Egypt-Libya Border, while media reports mentioned that US will soon establish a military air base in Niger to monitor the activities of terrorist groups in the area.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told Sputnik on Tuesday that his country has not deployed troops or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) near the Libyan border in Egypt.
Bogdanov stressed that Moscow maintains dialogue with various Libyan factions, including those based in the west, east and south of the country.
“We are in contact will all parts of the Libyan society in the west, east and south — with Aguila Saleh, the chairman of the Tobruk-based parliament, Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the Libyan army, as well as with many other forces. We hosted [Libyan Prime Minister] Fayez Sarraj,” Bogdanov added.
The New York Times said in a report the US is building a $50 million drone base in Agadez, Niger.
“When completed next year, it will allow Reaper surveillance drones to fly from hundreds of miles closer to southern Libya, to monitor ISIS insurgents flowing south and other extremists flowing north from the Sahel region,” the newspaper said.
NYT stated that American Special Operations forces and the CIA have been working for more than a year to identify militia fighters in Libya who the US can trust and support as a ground force to combat ISIS fighters, as the Pentagon did last year with militias from Misrata.
Politically, Libyan Speaker Aguila Saleh called for official sessions on Monday and Tuesday at the parliament in Tubrok, east of Libya. He said that due to the situation in the country, the parliament should hold a session to discuss a number of important matters.
In a related matter, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) and Head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Martin Kobler expressed concern over reports of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law being perpetrated across Libya.
He called on all parties to send a strong message that these acts are unacceptable and back these messages with evidence to identify and hold perpetrators of such crimes accountable.
“It is high time to put an end to the gross violations being committed across Libya. I remind all parties that those responsible for committing, ordering or failing to prevent these acts, including hostage-taking, torture, extrajudicial executions, indiscriminate shelling and desecration of corpses when in a position to do so, are criminally liable, including in front of the International Criminal Court (ICC),” Kobler declared.
Kobler warned that continued fighting in residential areas continued to endanger the civilian population, in an environment already fraught with criminal and political kidnappings.
Libyan National Oil Corporation denied rumors that its CEO Eng. Mustafa Sanallah had resigned, saying these allegations are not based on facts.