Press briefing notes on Libya, 18 July 2017
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Date: 18 July 2017
We are deeply concerned that, after recent fighting in Benghazi, people taken prisoner by members of the Libyan National Army, which effectively controls eastern Libya, may be at imminent risk of torture and even summary execution.
Our concern is based on reports suggesting the involvement of the Special Forces, a unit aligned with the LNA, and in particular their field commander, Mahmoud al-Werfalli, in torturing detainees and summarily executing at least 10 captured men.
In March, amid fierce fighting for control of the Benghazi neighbourhood of Ganfouda, a video circulating on social media allegedly showed al-Werfalli shooting dead three men who were kneeling and facing a wall with their hands tied behind their backs.
In June, as battles continued between the LNA and fighters from the umbrella group of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, two videos on social media appeared to show summary executions carried out by LNA combatants on al-Werfalli’s orders. One of these videos, which emerged on 9 June, shows four men kneeling with their hands tied behind their backs who are shot dead as al-Werfalli watches.
The latest video, which was posted on social media this month, seems to show LNA fighters kicking and taunting prisoners, while al-Werfalli is apparently heard accusing two men who have their hands tied behind their backs of belonging to terrorist groups.
The LNA announced in March 2017 that it would conduct investigations into alleged war crimes but it has not shared any information regarding the progress of these inquiries.
We urge the LNA to ensure there is a full, impartial investigation into these allegations and also call on the group to suspend Mahmoud al-Werfalli from his duties as a Special Forces field commander pending the conclusion of such an investigation.
We have documented unlawful killings by armed groups on all sides of the conflict in Libya, and despite ample information regarding such crimes, widespread impunity continues.
All those responsible for committing, ordering or failing to prevent summary executions, when in a position to do so, are criminally liable, including under international law. All evidence of unlawful killings and torture should be fully investigated and those found to be responsible should be held to account in accordance with all judicial guarantees.
The fight against terrorism cannot be used to justify summary executions or other grave violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.