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Libyan forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar accused of further killings

Human Rights Watch says evidence that Libyan National Army forces killed at least 36 men in mass execution in eastern Libya
Troops loyal to Khalifa Haftar fighting in Benghazi in December 2014 (AFP)

Armed groups loyal to Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) appear to have executed 36 men without trial outside the eastern city of Benghazi in recent weeks, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday. 

Local police forces discovered the men's bodies in a desert area close to a main road in the town of al-Abyar, about 50km from Benghazi, on 26 October.

'The LNA will be condoning apparent war crimes if their pledge to investigate the gruesome discovery in al-Abyar proves to be another empty promise'

Eric Goldstein, HRW deputy Middle East and North Africa director

Family members of six of the men who identified the bodies of their relatives after they were transferred to a hospital told HRW that their relatives had been seized by armed groups linked to LNA forces without arrest warrants.

Relatives said the bodies of the six men had at least one gunshot wound each and their hands were tied behind their backs.

The fresh allegations come just weeks after a team of human rights lawyers presented evidence to the International Criminal Court that lawyers said justifies opening an investigation probing whether Haftar and his forces have committed crimes against humanity during the country's ongoing war. 

In August, the ICC issued a warrant for the arrest of LNA special forces field commander, Mahmoud al-Werfalli, who is alleged to have overseen mass executions of dozens of prisoners, captured in a series of videos. It is the first warrant issued solely based on social media evidence.

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. In response, HRW called on Haftar to launch a "full and transparent investigation" into the alleged crimes.

On 28 October, two days after the bodies were discovered in al-Abyar, Haftar released a statement through an LNA spokesperson saying that he had ordered in the military prosecutor for the eastern region to investigate.

Translation: The chief of the Libyan National Army announces the ordering of the military prosecutor to investigate with urgency the discovery of 36 corpses in the south of al-Abyar

However, a month later, the LNA has yet to announce the start of the investigation. 

Eric Goldstein, HRW's deputy Middle East and North Africa director, said LNA pledges to conduct inquiries into unlawful killings "have so far led nowhere".

“The LNA will be condoning apparent war crimes if their pledge to investigate the gruesome discovery in al-Abyar proves to be another empty promise.”

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