New evidence shows that retaliatory attacks against civilians are happening in Libya as territories are gained and lost in the war between the UN backed Government of National Accord (GNA) and the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA).
Amnesty International said war crimes and other violations may have been committed between April 13 and June 01 by warring parties during the latest surge in fighting near Tripoli, including, looting, indiscriminate attacks, and the planting of anti-personnel landmines in civilian buildings.
The human rights group has examined scores of incidents through witness testimonies, analysis of open source photos and videos, and satellite imagery.
The organization calls on all warring parties and associated forces in Libya to immediately halt attacks against civilians and other violations of international humanitarian law, including those being carried out to punish civilians for their perceived affiliations with rival groups.
“Civilians in Libya are once again paying the price as all parties escalate retaliatory attacks and other grave violations showing utter disregard for the laws of war and lives of civilians,” said Diana Eltahawy, MENA Deputy Regional Director at Amnesty International.
“We are calling on all parties to the conflict and affiliated militias and armed groups to immediately halt indiscriminate attacks and other serious violations carried out against civilians associated with rival groups. Commanders must publicly condemn these acts.”
Amnesty International is also calling on members of the UN Human Rights Council to urgently establish a Commission of Inquiry or similar mechanism to investigate violations of international humanitarian law and other human rights violations.
The recent escalation in fighting in Tripoli’s suburbs and western Libya, with several western towns changing hands between armed groups affiliated with the GNA and the LNA has sparked an escalation of unlawful retaliatory attacks.
On 13 April, GNA affiliated forces, using Turkish arms and equipment transferred in violation of the UN arms embargo, captured the cities of Surman and Sabratha and several towns west of Tripoli.
Witnesses told Amnesty International that members of GNA affiliated armed groups looted several civilian houses and public buildings, including the Sabratha main hospital, and set homes on fire.
Amnesty International also verified a photo published on social media by a GNA fighter, showing GNA fighters celebrating next to the corpses of several LNA fighters.
Video footage analysed by Amnesty International shows further incidents of retaliation against civilians for their perceived affiliation to one side or another.
Since April 2020, GNA forces have been advancing against LNA positions in western Libya, capturing several coastal areas and the Al-Watiya airbase, pushed back LNA forces from Tripoli’s suburbs and took control of Tarhuna and towns around Gharyan.
On 13 April, the GNA’s Surman command has issued a statement warning its troops against retaliatory acts, committing to investigate such “individual incidents”. To date, no commanders or fighters implicated in such crimes have been held to account or removed from active duty. (Source: Amnesty Intl.)