Western-supported Libyan warlord guilty of war crimes, say investigators

Khalifa HaftarLibya’s most powerful warlord, who was an asset of the United States Central Intelligence Agency before entering the Libyan Civil War, ordered his troops to commit war crimes, according to two American legal experts. Libya has remained in a state of war since 2011, when a popular uprising backed by the West and its allies led to the demise of the country’s dictator, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Currently the strongest faction in the ongoing Libyan Civil War is the eastern-based Tobruk-led Government, which is affiliated with the Libyan National Army (LNA). The commander of the LNA is Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, an old adversary of Colonel Gaddafi, who lived in the United States under Washington’s protection for several decades before returning to Libya in 2011 to launch his military campaign.

But Haftar’s reputation as a military commander is now being challenged by two leading American legal experts. They are Ryan Goodman, a professor and former special counsel to the general counsel of the United States Department of Defense, and Alex Whiting, a Harvard University law professor who served as an international criminal prosecutor at the International Criminal Court. Together they have published a report on the Just Security blog, which is affiliated with several institutions, including the New York University School of Law. The two scholars argue that Haftar has publicly urged his troops to commit war crimes in several instances. Their report references a video that contains a brief given by Haftar in September 2015 to LNA commanders, in which he calls on them to take no prisoners. In a transcript of the LNA leader’s speech, he is reported to have told his audience: “Give no consideration to bringing prisoner[s] here. There is no prison here”. The two legal experts interpret Haftar’s statement as a clear case of “denial of quarter”, which they say is “a firmly settled part of the laws of war”. In another video, recorded in August 2016, Beleed al-Sheikhy, who is a spokesman for the LNA, is seen briefing LNA commanders about an upcoming battle in Ganfouda, a southern suburb of the port city of Benghazi. Al-Sheikhy says in the video that “anyone who is above 14 years of age will never get out [of Ganfouda] alive”. He tells the LNA troops that they should “consider this a confirmed notice”.

In June of this year, a report published by the United Nations suggested that the main reason for the LNA’s military prowess lies in the secret support it receives from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. In August, a British-based newspaper claimed that Haftar has been holding secret meetings with Israeli officials since 2015, and that the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, has secretly provided the LNA with military aid, including night vision equipment and various sniper rifles.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 28 September 2017 | Permalink

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