UN chief shocked at Libya mass graves in recently freed town

UN chief shocked at Libya mass graves in recently freed town
UN's Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is 'shocked' at the recent discovery of mass graves in Haftar-controlled territory.
2 min read
Antonio Guterres is the UN's chief [Getty]

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep shock late Friday at the discovery of mass graves in Libyan territory recently recaptured from forces commanded by Khalifa Haftar, and called for a transparent investigation.

The UN chief also called on Libya’s UN-supported government to secure the mass graves, identify the victims, establish the causes of death and return the bodies to next of kin. He offered UN support in carrying it out, UN spokesman Stephane 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.

The United Nations said earlier Friday that at least eight mass graves have been discovered, mostly in the town of Tarhuna, a key western town that served as a main stronghold for Khalifa’s east-based forces in their 14-month campaign to capture the capital Tripoli.

The discoveries have raised fears about the extent of human rights violations in territories controlled by Haftar’s forces, given the difficulties of documentation in an active war zone.

Philippe Nassif, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, said the group was working to verify the mass killings.

“We want to be able to go in, or have the UN go in, and collect evidence of potential war crimes and other atrocities ... so eventually a process takes place where justice can be served,” he said.

Last week, militias allied with the UN-supported government in Tripoli recaptured Tarhuna, some 65 kilometres (41 miles) southeast of the Libyan capital, their latest in a string of battlefield successes that reversed most of Haftar’s gains. Earlier, the government said it regained control of all of Tripoli’s entrance and exit points and Tripoli airport.

Fathi Bashagha, the interior minister in the UN-supported government, said earlier this week that authorities were documenting evidence of alleged war crimes in Tarhuna, noting that preliminary reports indicated dozens of victims found in the city’s mass graves had been buried alive.

Bashagha also said that special investigative teams uncovered a shipping container in Tarhuna full of charred bodies, presumably of detainees, and blamed powerful militias loyal to Haftar for “heinous crimes.” A feared Haftar-allied militia called Al-Kaniyat, notorious for its targeting of dissenters, had controlled the town.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected