Skip to main content

Libya war: Human rights lawyers seek ICC probe into Khalifa Haftar

Guernica 37 presented a dossier of evidence to criminal court alleging strongman and his forces committed crimes against humanity
Haftar's forces have thus far rejected the UN-backed GNA's authority (Reuters)

A team of human rights lawyers presented evidence to the International Criminal Court on Tuesday alleging Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar and his forces have committed crimes against humanity during the country's ongoing civil war.

The London-based Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers filed the dossier on behalf of Libyan victims of abuse with allegations including extensive destructions, torture and murder.

“We are satisfied that we have enough evidence for the Office of the Prosecutor to justify opening a specific investigation into the actions of Field Marshal Haftar and those forces under his command,” said Toby Cadman, Guernica 37's co-founder and head.

A spokesperson for Haftar could not immediately be reached for comment.

These are only the latest accusations raised against Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) which both the United Nations and human rights groups have accused of human rights violations.

This March, LNA members were alleged to have killed starving residents of a besieged neighbourhood in the eastern city of Benghazi. Relatives told MEE that their family members were killed as they attempted to flee on a bus in search of food.

After the incident, Human Rights Watch said that the LNA forces may have committed war crimes and called on Haftar to launch a "full and transparent investigation" into the alleged crimes "including attacks on civilians, alleged summary executions, and the mutilation and desecration of corpses".

In July, after a series of videos emerged allegedly showing his men summarily executing dozens of prisoners, Haftar faced pressure to hand over Mahmoud al-Werfalli, the LNA special forces field commander who oversaw the mass shootings.

The ICC issued a warrant for his arrest in August, the first to have been issued solely based on social media evidence.

'Justice is blind'

Haftar is allied with Libya's government based in the east - as opposed to the UN-backed government in Tripoli -  and is supported by Egypt, the UAE and Russia.

In recent months, despite concerns raised regarding Haftar's conduct, European leaders seem to be embracing him.

In August, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said he backed what he characterised as Haftar’s fight against terror a day after he visited him in Benghazi. Haftar was also welcomed in Rome in September, where he was received by Italian officials.

Regardless of the role Haftar might play in the future of Libya, Cadman said, if evidence exists, he should still be held to answer in a court of law.

Libyan warlord faces ICC warrant: Is this a new era of open sourced justice?
Read More »

“Justice is blind,” Cadman said. "The only salient point to consider is whether there is credible evidence to substantiate an allegation.”

The former ICC chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo has come under fire for his alleged ties to a Libyan oil tycoon who is said to be Haftar's close ally.

“Whether Mr Ocampo has links with Haftar or otherwise is immaterial," said Cadman. "The ICC has a mandate to investigate the most serious of crimes."

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.