Libyan families seek tens of millions of dollars in damages from Khalifa Haftar
Several Libyan families have filed a motion in a US court seeking tens of millions of dollars in compensation from Khalifa Haftar, commander of forces in the country's east, after the court ruled in late July that Haftar was liable for war crimes.
The filing, seen by Middle East Eye, called for "$10 million for each decedent-estate and $5 million for each individual survivor" to compensate the three families who have accused the Libyan commander of being responsible for the death and torture of several relatives.
Previously in 2020, a US magistrate judge said one of the families alone should be entitled to $80m in damages.
"Plaintiffs have standing to recover damages on their own behalf and on behalf of their family member decedents. There can be no question that those Plaintiffs who suffered torture can recover damages in their own name," said the motion, which was filed last Friday.
The families will also be seeking an equal amount in punitive damages, which are awarded by a court to punish the defendant.
They first took legal action in 2019, filing a lawsuit against Haftar under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, a law that allows non-US citizens to seek compensation from individuals who, acting in an official capacity for any foreign nation, allegedly committed torture or extrajudicial killing.
Haftar, a US citizen who had been a Virginia resident for decades, had unsuccessfully tried to have the civil lawsuits tossed out under the claim of immunity as head of state.
In July, following a years-long legal battle between the Libyan families and Haftar, who failed to show up to court despite being called in for a deposition hearing, District Judge Leonie Brinkema issued a default judgement against the Libyan commander, saying he was liable for war crimes.
Last week's motion puts forth the families' proposal for the structure of a trial that would ultimately rule the amount of compensation to which they are entitled.
Haftar has owned various property holdings in Virginia worth millions of dollars, according to an investigative report by the Wall Street Journal. An exclusive report by MEE last month found Haftar's family has been quietly liquidating their portfolio of real estate in the US.
"It's rumoured he has hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps more around the world," the attorney for one of the families, Mark Zaid, previously said.
On Tuesday, several days after the motion was filed, an attorney for Haftar submitted a motion to set aside the default judgement and allow for him to provide a case for his "meritorious defense".
Haftar's filing comes after his previous legal representative withdrew in July, leaving him without an attorney in the case until 8 September, when attorney Robert Cox filed an appearance to enter as counsel for the Libyan commander.
Cox did not respond to MEE's request for comment by time of publication.