Libya | Urgent Appeal: Libya Platform calls on UNSC member states to throw full support behind ICC investigations into grave and systematic violations of international humanitarian law

In Libya, Media Unite, Statements and Reportsby CIHRS

The Libya Platform (LP), composed of 16 CSOs, has issued an urgent appeal to member states of the UN Security Council, urging them to take a swift, decisive stand on the mounting grave and systematic violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in Libya by all sides in the armed conflict. Some of these violations may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The LP hopes that the stances taken by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the EU, as well as the collective position of the US, UK, Italy, and France on the terrorist bombings in Benghazi on January 23, 2018 and the brutal executions that followed, are genuine and effective, and will be pursued by UNSC members; especially considering that a similar collective statement was issued in July 2017 without any real steps toward accountability.

The LP stresses that the lack of accountability, particularly the failure of national and international investigation to identify those responsible for such grave violations and bring them to justice, is the main obstacle to the non-implementation of the political process and reform.  This failure is the direct result of the non-effective action of UNSC member states to assist the ICC in its investigations.

In this context, the LP warns Security Council members of the grave dangers of disregarding the reports of the Security Council Committee of Experts[1], mandated by Resolution 1970/2011. The expert committee documented serious violations of arms embargoes and military support from regional and international countries such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey, according to reports in June 2017, March 2016 and February 2015. These countries support armed groups in western and eastern Libya, including radical armed groups with close ties to al-Qaeda and the Salafists’ Madkhali trend. Furthermore, individuals affiliated to these groups claim to be fighting  terror while committing the same violations as the terrorists, without respect for the four Geneva Conventions on the Basic principles of International Humanitarian Law relating to armed conflict, whether internal or international.

To counter further violence and terrorism, the LP advocates enabling the ICC to expand and intensify its investigations inside Libya, or from a neighboring state given the incapacity of the Libyan judicial system and its desire to abandon its national responsibilities in the current situation. The LP notes that the Libyan state and its institutions have been taken hostage by militias who are not subordinate to the Presidential Council and internationally recognized government, with the complicity of several international players. This is the primary reason for the proliferation of terrorist operations and criminal practices that have plagued Libya for years.

In the past few months, grave violations have resulted in the killing of dozens of civilians in Libya’s armed conflict. These violations include extrajudicial killings, such as the 36 persons killed in Abyar in 27 October 2017 . Similarly, the bodies of three killed by the Council of Derna Mujahideen were found in front of the al-Harish Hospital in Derna . The violations also include indiscriminate attacks on civilians and random shelling.  The most prominent of these violations include the attack on the airport in January 2018; or most recently, the bombing in Benghazi on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, which took place in front of the Bayat al-Radwan Mosque in the densely populated al-Salmani residential neighborhood. The bombing killed 44 people and injured another 87, according to the Galaa Trauma and Surgery Hospital and the Benghazi Medical Center.

Despite these criminal bombings constituting war crimes under the Article 8(b) of the Rome Charter of the ICC, no action has been taken to ensure accountability for this incident, as well as for dozens of other terrorist incidents, and identify the parties responsible.

In a remarkable development, several sources have confirmed that General Mahmoud al-Werfalli, a special forces commander with the eastern Libyan National Army (LNA), was responsible for the extrajudicial killing of ten people on Wednesday, January 24, 2018 in front of the same mosque that was bombed; the bombing was apparently a response to that incident. In the last few hours, the bodies of several people killed in the same manner have been found in various parts of Benghazi. This indicates the systematic nature of extrajudicial executions and the terrorizing of civilians throughout the country.

The ICC Office of the Prosecutor previously issued an arrest warrant for General Werfalli on charges of extrajudicial executions that may amount to war crimes, in connection with the deaths of 33 people from June 3, 2016 to July 17, 2017. Although the General Command of the LNA announced it had begun questioning al-Werfalli on August 2, 2017, he was able to secure an official decree on August 14 recognizing his status as military commander of the Saaqa Special Forces, clearly demonstrating the non-serious nature of these investigations.

This is clear evidence of the inability or unwillingness of the eastern Libyan authorities to arrest al-Werfalli and others responsible for extrajudicial killing, torture, and war crimes, and bring them to court for prosecution. The lack of accountability for violations further entrenches impunity and bolsters the belief that the Libyan judiciary and justice system are wholly incapable of prosecuting those implicated in war crimes and grave human rights violations, both in eastern and western Libya.

The LP’s member organizations note that under Resolution 1970, the ICC has jurisdiction over all incidents in Libya, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. This also includes crimes committed by violent extremist groups, among them the Islamic State (Daesh), made clear by UNSC Resolution 2213 of 2015 and 2238 of 2015. These resolutions expressed the Council’s grave concern with “the growing trend of non-state actors in Libya to proclaim allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (also known as Da’esh) and the continued presence of other Al-Qaida-linked terrorist groups and individuals operating there.” Resolution 2213 also referred measures taken pursuant to Resolution 1970 (2011) to refer the situation in Libya to the ICC Prosecutor, which is responsible for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations and abuses.[2]


[1] The Committee was established on 26 February 2011 pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) to oversee the relevant sanctions measures (arms embargo, assets freeze, travel ban) and to undertake the tasks set out by the Security Council in paragraph 24 of the same resolution.

[2] ELEVENTH REPORT OF THE PROSECUTOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT TO THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL PURSUANT TO UNSCR 1970 (2011)

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