Crimes against humanity amped up fear in Libya after Foreign Minister Mohamed Siala sent a letter to the UN Security Council urging the Hague-based court to launch a probe into potential war crimes of Khalifa Haftar-backed forces. He claimed that dozens of victims, especially women and children, had been buried alive by Haftar forces as GNA found 11 mass graves in Tarhuna. Also Read - India Concerned, Keeping Close Watch on Hong Kong-China Situation: UN Ambassador
After a civil war toppled the long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed, Libya has been in turmoil since 2011 resulting in splitting of the country between rival administrations in the East and the West. While both are backed by armed groups and foreign governments, the crisis in the oil-rich country worsened steadily after Haftar forces launched an offensive to try to take Tripoli in April 2019. Also Read - International Widows' Day 2020: History, Significance of The Day And Theme For This Year
Despite Haftar being supported by France, Russia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and other key Arab countries, the UN-backed government in Tripoli (which is also aided by Turkey, Italy and Qatar) recaptured it at the onset of June this year. They also recaptured Tarhuna which is about 65 kms South-East of the Libyan capital but preliminary reports indicated that dozens of victims had been buried alive in the mass graves discovered in the city. Also Read - Heartbreaking! Twitter Sheds Tears Over 'World's Worst Humanitarian Crisis' as War Tears Yemen
A report in The Guardian revealed that While documenting evidence of alleged war crimes in Tarhuna, the interior minister in the UN-backed government, Fathi Bashagha shared that a feared militia allied to Haftar called al-Kaniyat had controlled Tarhuna and is notorious for its targeting of dissenters. Apart from al-Kaniyat, other powerful militias loyal to Haftar for “heinous crimes” were blamed after the special investigative teams uncovered a shipping container in the town, full of charred bodies, presumably of detainees.
As UN figures pointed at discovery of eight mass graves found in Libya recently, mostly in Tarhuna, UN secretary general António Guterres expressed deep shock and also called on Libya’s UN-backed government to secure the mass graves, identify the victims, establish the causes of death and return the bodies to the next of kin. His spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said, “The secretary general once again reminds all parties to the conflict in Libya of their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.” Dujarric said that Guterres offered UN support in carrying out the measures.
Recently, the media centre of the Libyan government’s “Volcano of Rage” military operation tweeted pictures and videos that showed the Libyan Red Crescent forensic teams excavating the mass graves. They were captioned in Arabic and roughly translated to, “The General Authority for Research and Identification of Missing Persons arrived today, Saturday, to the city of Tarhuna at the place where the bodies were exhumed last Wednesday. The team took the coordinates of the cemetery completely (sic)”
According to the US assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, David Schenker, there were trobling reports of Tripoli’s forces having discovered bodies of civilians, land mines and other explosive devices in territory retaken from Haftar’s forces.