Militia Attacks May be War Crimes

From Human Rights Watch.

Libyan militia forces battling for control of Tripoli and surrounding areas have engaged in attacks on civilians and civilian property that in some cases amount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said today. The militias have seized people and looted, burned, and otherwise destroyed property.

Thousands of residents fled their homes during five weeks of fighting between the Libya Dawn Alliance, led by militias from the coastal city of Misrata, and a coalition of militias from the inland mountain town of Zintan. Human Rights Watch has documented a series of attacks by Libya Dawn forces on civilians and civilian property since they took control of Tripoli, including its civilian airport, on August 24, 2014.

“Commanders on both sides need to rein in their forces and end the cycle of abuses or risk being first in line for possible sanctions and international prosecution,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “All warring parties, as well as the Libyan government, should respect their obligation to protect civilians at all times and to hold their forces accountable when they commit crimes.”

Both sides appear to have committed violations that could amount to war crimes during five weeks of fighting sparked by Libya Dawn’s initial attack on Tripoli airport on July 13. The fighting, mostly in western areas of Tripoli, included indiscriminate firing by both sides.

Since Libya Dawn got the upper hand in Tripoli, its forces have committed further violations, including against journalists, government officials, and ordinary civilians suspected of supporting or sympathizing with the Zintan-led alliance, which is aligned with the Libya Dignity operation. Libya Dignity is the name of a military campaign in eastern Libya by former Libyan army general Khalifa Hiftar to fight Islamist militias under the Islamic Shura Council including Ansar al-Sharia.

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