International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on Tuesday reported that the recent failed offensive by Libya’s eastern-based forces involved a pattern of violence and the use of mines by retreating forces that harmed civilians, which is a war crime when used indiscriminately.
Bensouda said that “credible information” on the increasing use of mines and improvised explosive devices against civilians was discovered when people who fled the fighting returned and “were either killed or injured because their homes were booby trapped by such devices.”
At least 49 people were killed by mines between April and June, she told the UN Security Council in a virtual briefing.
Bensouda said that the latest information indicated the offensive by eastern forces under Libyan National Army Commander Khalifa Haftar formed part of “a pattern of violence that involves the indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling of civilian areas; arbitrary abduction; detention and torture of civilians; extrajudicial killings; enforced disappearances; and pillaging of civilian property.”
This repeated a pattern of violence previously reported in places such as Haftar’s base in Benghazi, the former Islamic State extremist stronghold of Derna that his forces recaptured last year, and Ajdabiya in the east, Marzuq in the south and the coastal city of Sirte that he also controlled, she said.
Since the discovery of mass graves in June in Tarhuna, which Haftar’s forces used as a base to launch their attack in April last year, seeking to take the capital of Tripoli, more than 100 bodies have been found, many blindfolded and with their hands tied, Bensouda said.
She said that her office is engaging with the UN-recognized government in Tripoli “in relation to these mass graves.”
Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a NATO-backed uprising toppled Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, who was later killed. The country has since split between rival administrations in the east and the west, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
Haftar’s offensive, supported by Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia, collapsed in June when militia backing the Tripoli government, with support from Turkey, gained the upper hand.
Bensouda welcomed the Oct. 23 ceasefire agreement between the warring parties and urged its implementation to “usher in the much awaited peace and stability for the people of Libya.”
She also stressed the importance of justice and accountability.
“Victims of atrocity crimes in Libya must be reassured that notwithstanding any ceasefire or future agreement, individuals alleged to be responsible for serious crimes falling under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court will be promptly arrested and surrendered to the court to face charges for their alleged crimes,” she said.
Those include war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
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