Amnesty calls for international investigation into Libya war crimes following Haftar's assault on Tripoli

Amnesty calls for international investigation into Libya war crimes following Haftar's assault on Tripoli
In a statement released on Thursday, Amnesty International said that rocket attacks on civilian areas in Tripoli committed by forces loyal to rogue General Haftar violated international law.
3 min read
16 May, 2019
The aftermath of a rocket attack on the Abu Salim district of Tripoli (Getty)

Amnesty International has accused forces loyal to rogue Libyan General Khalifa Haftar of committing possible war crimes in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

In a statement released on Thursday, the human rights organization said that Haftar’s offensive on Tripoli had resulted in unlawful attacks.

Amnesty International called for an international investigation into the attacks. Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director, Magdalena Mughrabi, accused both sides in the conflict of “displaying a shameful disregard for civilian safety and international humanitarian law”.

However, all the attacks Amnesty International mentioned in its statement appear to have been committed by General Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army.

454 have been killed and 2,154 people have been injured in Haftar’s assault on Tripoli, according to the World Health Organization. His forces, which have received support from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, are battling the internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj.

Earlier this month, Haftar rejected UN calls for a ceasefire, urging his troops to "wipe out" forces loyal to the government during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Approximately 70,000 people have been forced to flee their homes due to the assault.

Amnesty said it had obtained witness testimony and analyzed satellite imagery which indicated that densely populated residential areas in Tripoli’s Abu Salim district suffered indiscriminate rocket attacks between 15 and 17 April.

One eyewitness said that four women and one man were killed on the night of 16 April as five rockets struck five houses in the Hay al-Intissar area of Abu Salim. One young girl was critically injured but survived.

Satellite imagery revealed the extent of the damage and found that there were no military bases or facilities anywhere near this area, which is controlled by militia loyal to the internationally recognized government.

Rockets also landed on the “Kikla buildings” residential complex in Abu Salim on 15 April, hitting a third-floor apartment and wounding two civilians. Once again, there were no military bases or facilities in the area.

The rockets used in the attacks were GRAD and 107 mm rockets, which are unguided and inaccurate. Using these in civilian areas is prohibited under international law.

"Such reckless attacks could have devastating consequences for civilians and strengthen the need for the International Criminal Court to expand its investigations into possible war crimes by all sides in Libya’s conflict", Mughrabi said.

Amnesty also said that airstrikes likely carried out by Haftar’s forces, with UAE support, had damaged the Tajoura migrant detention centre, where 500 refugees are being detained, injuring two people.

The airstrike hit an armoured vehicle next to a weapons depot. The human rights organization criticized the internationally-recognized government for establishing a migrant detention centre next to a weapons depot and for forcing migrants to work in military-related roles.

In a separate incident, 15 armed men likely loyal to Khalifa Haftar stormed another migrant detention centre, Qasr Ben Ghashir, on April 23 and ordered Christian refugees to stop Easter prayers. When the refugees, refused they started shooting at them.

Amnesty International also called for a UN arms embargo on Libya to be implemented.

The relentless cycle of mounting abuses means the need is greater than ever for states to fully implement the UN arms embargo on Libya. A meaningful accountability system must be set up to investigate serious violations of international humanitarian law by all warring parties and hold those responsible to account”, Mughrabi concluded.