Amnesty International has expressed fears that the Benghazi Revolutionary Shoura Council (BRSC) is using captives as human shields in the battle with Libyan National Army (LNA).
Commenting on videos produced by the BRSC in which three men held prisoner by Ansar Al-Sharia say that they and others are in danger as a result of airstrikes by the Libyan National Army (LNA), Amnesty says that the videos may have been produced to protect Ansar fighters from attack.
That would be a war crime, Amnesty points out.
“No one should be held as a hostage or treated as a human shield,” the interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, Magdalena Mughrabi, said.
Ansar is one of the main components of the BRSC.
Given the situation, Amnesty said the LNA airstrikes are endangering the lives of scores of detainees in Benghazi. It called on the LNA to avoid “or at least minimise” harm to those not directly involved in the fighting.
“Carrying out airstrikes in a manner that ignores their presence violates international humanitarian law,” said Mugharbi. “Even if Ansar al-Sharia were intentionally using detainees as human shields, this would not absolve the Libyan National Army of their obligation to take their presence into account and to avoid launching disproportionate or otherwise indiscriminate attacks, which may amount to war crimes,”
The three men in the video have been identified as Mousa Abduljawad Al-Badri, Mohamed Abdallah Atbaiga and Omar Mohamed Ishtar. They were among some 130 men abducted by Ansar from Buhdeima military prison in October 2014. Most had been accused of fighting in support of the Qaddafi regime during the revolution although, in some cases, their release had been ordered by the courts because of insufficient evidence. However, despite this, they has still been detained.
In the videos, the three say that some of the others have already been injured as a result of LNA air strikes.
The videos were the first time in months that the families of the three have heard of them, fuelling suspicions BRSC were trying to use them and the others as shields.
For the families, though, they have been welcomed as proof that the three are still alive.
“All we’re asking for is a safe passage for them,” Amensty quoted Atbaiga’s brother Mohammed Abdallah as saying. “Ever since his arrest, our lives have been at a standstill, destroyed. My father is an old man and can’t take more.”
Amnesty believes that they were moved by Ansar to part of Ganfouda where it is claimed that the fighting has prevented more than 400 families from leaving. The figures is said to include foreigners as well.
Amnesty points out that it has not been able to verify these figures. It also states that forces on all sides “have committed serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes.
“They have carried out hundreds of abductions, taken hostages, tortured, ill-treated and summarily killed detainees, and launched indiscriminate attacks on residential areas.”