By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 8 September 2014:
Armed groups battling in Tripoli since the end of Ramadan may have . . .[restrict]engaged in war crimes, attacking civilians and civilian property, Human Rights Watch has said.
The New York based NGO said in a report released today that during the five weeks of fighting in the capital between the Misratan-led Libya Dawn forces and Zintan, both sides appeared “to have committed violations that could amount to war crimes”.
It said 12,600 families, according to Tripoli Local Council, had fled during the clashes centred around Tripoli International Airport, as their homes came under attack. Libya Dawn forces had committed further violations after they gained the upper hand in the capital.
“Commanders on both sides need to rein in their forces and end the cycle of abuses or risk being first in line for possible sanctions and international prosecution,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa Director at Human Rights Watch said. “All warring parties, as well as the Libyan government, should respect their obligation to protect civilians at all times and to hold their forces accountable when they commit crimes,” she added.
Human Rights Watch reported that Libya Dawn, in particular, had carried out violations against journalists, government officials and civilians suspected of “supporting or sympathising with the Zintan-led alliance, which is aligned with the Libya Dignity operation”.
It detailed attacks by Libya Dawn on Al-Asima television station, in which the home of the station’s director was set on fire along with the property of other individuals associated with the station, adding that three Al-Asima employees had been kidnapped in the attacks and were still missing.
The also report cited attacks by Libya Dawn on the Tripoli home of Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni, an attack on the home of the Acting Transportation Minister Abdel Qader Al-Zintani and the looting and destruction of at least 80 homes belonging to Zintanis living in Tripoli, as was reported by Zintan Municipal Council one week ago.
Both sides appeared to be holding people seized in the fighting, the NGO said. It mentioned the further kidnappings of Abdelmoez Banoon, a Tripoli-based activist who was abducted from his home by forces loyal to Libya Dawn as well as Suliman Zubi, a member of the former legislature, who has been held by members of the Zintani-aligned Barq Al-Nasr militia since 21 July.
Attacks by Libya Central Sheild on Tawerghan refugee camps in Tripoli which led to the death of one man and the injuries of several other displaced people could also amount to war crimes Human Rights Watch said. “The militia groups, as well as the Libyan government, should take urgent steps to stop abuses against Tawerghans, some 40,000 of whom have been forcibly displaced,” it explained.
“All parties to the conflict in Libya are required to abide by the laws of war.” Human Rights Watch said. “Certain serious violations of the laws of war, when committed with criminal intent, are war crimes. Those who commit, order, assist, or have command responsibility for war crimes are subject to prosecution by domestic courts or the International Criminal Court.”
The UN has called on all armed groups to “remove from active duty and hand over to the justice system those among their members suspected of having committed abuses”.
At the end of last month the UN Security Council extended UN sanctions to include anyone endangering Libya’s stability and democracy, squarely backing the House of Representatives and the Thinni government. Although no list of those to be charged or sanctioned has yet emerged, it is believed that as many as 250 individuals may be hit by the measures.