Geneva - The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor condemned the continued armed clashes and fighting since April 4 on the outskirts of the Libyan capital Tripoli between the retired general Khalifa Haftar and the internationally recognized government of National Accord.
The fighting, according to Euro-Med’s estimates, claimed the lives of over 34 civilians, injuring about 75 others, displacing another 25,000, and destroying civilian homes and infrastructure.
Euro-Med Monitor has documentation Haftar forces’ grave violations that could amount to war crimes under the Rome Statute, calling for accountability for those involved in atrocities and other crimes.
Haftar forces’ indiscriminate targeting of residential neighborhoods in Tripoli on Wednesday and Thursday April 17 and 18 resulted in 52 casualties among civilians, said Euro-Med Monitor, including a number of women and children, who were killed and in clear violation of the basic principles of humanitarian law.
Haftar forces bombed the Maiteqa International airport, the only civil airport operating in Tripoli, twice in four days, causing the cessation of flight and disruption of the movement of passengers, which is a serious violation of international humanitarian law.
According to Euro-Med, on April 12, two African nationals were killed during clashes in the Ain Zara area south-west of Tripoli. Haftar’s air force targeted camps in which the government of National Accord holds illegal immigrants, raising fears of the risks posed to their very lives.
Medical facilities were also targeted during the military operation. According to Euro-Med’s field team, a clinic in Qasr bin Ghashir area, south-west of the capital, was heavily bombed and a number of ambulances were destroyed, which is a violation of the protection granted to these establishments under the Geneva Conventions and their protocols.
On April 11, the National Accord forces captured about 200 members of Haftar’s forces after they were surrounded in Khallet al-Furjan and Qasr bin Ghashir areas, some of whom, our field team found, are minors.
The recruitment and use of children as combatants is prohibited under international humanitarian law, in accordance with customs, laws and treaties, and contrary to the Optional Protocol on the Prohibition of the Participation of Children in Armed Conflict, ratified by Libya.
Euro-Med’s team documented horrendous violations carried out by Haftar’s forces against a number of its prisoners. According to Euro-Med’s sources, Haftar forces arrested six fighters from the National Accord Government while they surrounded them.
These fighters were taken to Haftar forces’ camps and then were subjected to extrajudicial killing without any trial, in clear violation of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949, which obliges the parties to the conflict to provide full legal protection to prisoners of war.
“I saw the marks of torture on my son's body; some of his limbs were cut and burned,” said the father of one prisoner who was executed in his testimony to Euro-Med’s team.
The areas of al-Suwani, Qasr bin Ghashir, Khallet al-Furjan and Ayn Zara are still subjected to indiscriminate bombardment of rocket and mortar shell fire, resulting in the displacement of thousands of civilians to safer areas.
Malik Mersit, a spokesman for the ministry of Health in the National Accord Government, said to Euro-Med’s team that a number of paramedics were injured as a result of rocket-propelled grenade while working rescuing the wounded in the clashes in Ain Zara and al-Suwani areas, southwest of the capital. He explained that the number of ambulances damaged by the clashes exceeded 8, all are now out of service.
The humanitarian situation in the capital is very dangerous, said Mersit, warning of a looming humanitarian disaster because of the power outages in the capital, which resulted in an interruption in the water supply to the civilian population.
The indiscriminate targeting of civilian areas and the bombing of civilian installations and establishments as well as killing prisoners are war crimes that guarantee criminal prosecution of those responsible, said Sarah Pritchett, Euro-Med’s spokeswoman.
The judicial authorities in Libya and the International Criminal Court should exert their effort to ensure that those responsible for violations are prosecuted, said Pritchett, calling the warring parties to open safe corridors for the civilian population in Tripoli to pass humanitarian aid and relief to them, and to immediately stop the random and indiscriminate targeting of residential areas.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on all parties to the conflict in Libya to spare civilians the scourge of war and fighting and to abide by the rules of conduct of combat operations in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Euro-Med Monitor also calls on the international community (UN Security Council and other relevant UN bodies) to help put an end to ongoing fighting, and to force general Haftar to withdraw his forces immediately, and to work urgently to spare about two million civilians living in the Libyan capital a looming humanitarian disaster.