The International Criminal Court will deploy a team of investigators to Libya at the request of the internationally recognised government, as rogue general Khalifa Haftar presses an offensive to seize the capital, killing hundreds of civilians.“The ICC is serious about conducting an independent and impartial investigation into violations against civilians and civilian installations as a result of the war being waged by Haftar against the capital,” sources in the Libyan ministry of justice and ministry of interior confirmed to The New Arab’s Arabic sister service on Thursday.
“The investigators will arrive in Tripoli imminently,” the interior ministry source claimed, saying that the Government of National Accord has prepared a dossier on suspects involved in possible war crimes.
“Six full dossiers have been transferred to ICC investigators containing damning evidence against Haftar and his bombardment against civilian areas in Tripoli,” said the Ministry of Justice source.
The New Arab has reached out to the ICC for comment but has not yet received a response.
On Wednesday, Libya’s Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj called on ICC to investigate “crimes and violations committed by the forces of warlord Khalifa Haftar and bring them to justice,” according to the Libya Observer.
In a letter addressed to the court’s prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, Sarraj said his government will provide the ICC with all the documents and evidence in this regard.
“Haftar’s forces are committing crimes against civilians and against humanity and are destroying the infrastructure with heavy weapons prohibited to be used within the cities,” Sarraj said.
In a statement on Tuesday, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said she is “deeply concerned” about the escalation of violence in Libya in the context of the resurging conflict arising from the advance of the Libyan National Army (“LNA”) towards Tripoli”.
“My Office is currently investigating several cases in the Libya situation, and continues to actively monitor the developing situation in the country…I will not hesitate to expand my investigations and potential prosecutions to cover any new instances of crimes falling within the Court’s jurisdiction,” she added.
The war crimes investigation has been urged after shelling on Libya’s capital inflicted a massacre on Tuesday, killing scores of civilians.
The fighting between Libya’s rival factions for control of the country’s capital this month killed 205 people so far, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, announcing it would deploy medical specialists, including surgeons, to treat the wounded.
The clashes, which erupted earlier in April, have threatened to ignite a civil war on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
The fighting has also forced the UN to indefinitely postpone reconciliation talks planned for mid-April that meant to try and find a way to pull Libya out of the chaos that followed Gaddafi’s ousting.
WHO said Wednesday it would send medical staff to treat the wounded, whose number has reached 913. It wasn’t clear how many among the dead are civilians.
Fighting over Tripoli is pitting the self-styled Libyan National Army, which is led by Saudi-backed rogue commander Khalifa Haftar and aligned with a rival government based in the country’s east, against Tripoli’s UN-supported government.
The UN says that more than 25,000 people have been displaced in the clashes.
Meanwhile, Haftar’s forces said they recaptured on Thursday the Tamanhint air base in southern Libya, which had been taken earlier by an armed group affiliated with the Tripoli government.
The armed group, known as the South Protection Forces, initially said it seized 15 armored vehicles and ammunition when it took the base but Mohammed al-Fares, a spokesman for Haftar’s fighters, later said they were back in control.
The base is located near the southern city of Sabha and has strategic significance for control of Libya’s south, which Haftar’s forces seized earlier this year before moving westward on to Tripoli.