Haftar’s militias committed horrendous war crimes in Ganfouda area of Benghazi on and around March 18, including summarily executing captives and parading corpses of opposition fighters, in retaliation for their deceased members.
The two videos below show the body of Jalal Makhzoum, a senior commander in BRSC (Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council - Islamist fighting militias), being exhumed and dragged by the so-called LNA (Libyan National Army - Haftar’s militias) fighters to the back of a truck while cursing him and calling him a dog.
The video below shows the exhumed corpse of Jalal Makhzoum tied to a car bonnet and paraded through the streets of Benghazi while the LNA fighters cheering and accompanying the body.
The body of another senior BRSC field commander but less known publicly, Salem Shatwan, was also paraded through the streets of Benghazi in a barbric way without respecting the feelings of the children who might have witnessed this or the feelings of the families and friends of these BRSC fighters.
The video below shows a mother crying her deceased son, who was a member of al-Saiqa brigade, in an unprecedented scene in front of the body of another BRSC fighter during the parade through the streets of Benghazi.
After the LNA fighters finished their shameful parade, they returned to their camp in Boutani district and hanged Jalal’s body on the wall of their camp for the people to see and take photos with. Some people even went on to mock him and pretend to be interviewing him like shown in the video below. He was left hanging there for several days. This, of course, was in retaliation for the attack of this very same camp by the BRSC back in 2014 where Jalal Makhzoum appeared in one of the videos in front of the gate of this camp, along with other senior field commanders, such as Wesam Ben Ehmid, cheering their victory against al-Saiqa brigade.
And as if all that was not enough to satisfy their vengeance, photos have emerged of ruthless LNA fighters setting corpses of other BRSC fighters to fire and then posing for selfies next to the burning corpses.
In another video, Khaled Butabel, a member of BRSC, can be seen interrogated by a mob of LNA fighters at the same time and accusing him of fighting against them after he was found hiding in a building in Ganfouda district. After the brief interrogation, they drag him out of the building, beat him, taunt him and threw him in a rubbish dump. Then, they line up in a row facing him and execute him with automatic rifles. The fighter who was recording the video can be heard saying to other injured fighters (one with an injured foot and the other with an eye patch) to take revenge on this man.
In another video, Mahmoud al-Warfalli, a captain in al-Saiqa brigade, is seen shooting three captured men from Tuareg tribe from the city of Ubari, allegedly found in Ganfouda conflict zone, in the back of the head with an AK-47 rifle as they kneel facing the house of al-Shukri family in Buhdima district with their hands tied behind their backs. Al-Shukri family lost five of their sons in the fight against the Islamists in Benghazi and one of their sons was a member of al-Saiqa brigade and friends with Mahmoud al-Warfalli. Their pictures can be seen in the giant poster hanged on the wall. According to sources close to freesaif.org, their father was offered to carry out the execution, but he refused and so Mahmoud al-Warfalli executed them in broad daylight.
Brutal Captain Mahmoud al-Warfalli is responsible for many other cruel summary executions documented in photos shared over the social media. He is also responsible for the barbaric act of parading the corpses of BRSC fighters in Benghazi. He can be seen on the right of Jalal Makhzoum's body wearing a red shirt and smiling in the video of parading Makhzoum's body.
Al-Saiqa brigade spokesman, Colonel Miloud al-Zwae, issued a statement on March 21, describing the unlawful killings as “isolated” incidents carried out by individuals and defending these crimes as being a retribution for similar war crimes committed by the fighters of BRSC earlier. He mentioned many incidents that happened in the last three years where LNA fighters were tortured, killed and then their bodies were mutilated and filmed to be posted online.
Indeed, there is strong evidence that proves that the BRSC fighters committed war crimes against the LNA fighters. For example, in the video below, which was recorded in al-Gwarsha district in Benghazi, an LNA fighter, Abulsalam al-Saiti, and an ambulance driver volunteering with the LNA, Mohammed al-Rabaai, are made to dig their own graves and then shot by ISIS militants for joining the LNA.
Another one's throat is brutally slit. His name is Jibril al-Oribi and he was volunteering as a paramedic with the LNA. Here is an emotional interview with his mother about him.
Also, there were photos of BRSC fighters desecrating and mutilating bodies of deceased LNA fighters. The photo below, for example, shows a BRSC fighter, in al-Sabri district in Benghazi, cuts off the ears and nose of an LNA fighter before he slit his throat and put his foot on the LNA fighter's bleeding throat.
There is no doubt that BRSC militants are brutal and that they have committed atrocities against LNA. However, it is not wise to bite a dog that bit you. Justifying these barbaric acts by al-Saiqa spokesman indicates the involvement of the leadership of the LNA in these war crimes. Evidently, there are orders from Haftar to execute captives without mercy. Although claiming to be respecting international laws and seeking help from international players such as France and the UK, Haftar, in the video below, gives orders to his soldiers to kill anyone captured in the battlefield with no mercy and tells them that there is no need to bring them from the battlefield and try to find a prison for them. He also tells them to use all kinds of weapons available to them without any hesitation.
In the photo below, Jalal Makhzoum appears to be hanging on the wall of al-Saiqa camp in Boutani district. On his right is Ekriam Wanees Bukhamada, the son of the top commander of al-Saiqa brigade, and on his left is Captain Mahmoud al-Warfalli who is the field commander of al-Saiqa forces in the LNA. Hence, these crimes were not “isolated” incidents carried out by individuals as claimed. Senior LNA figures are involved in these crimes, as well.
Even families of the BRSC fighters were mistreated and their human rights were violated. Some of them were killed in the crossfire that erupted as the BRSC fighters attempted to flee Ganfouda with their families. Four women were killed including a 75-year-old woman. Seven women were captured including two young girls believed to be 14 and 15-year-old. Later, on March 28, Haftar's militias agreed to exchange six of the captured women, including the two young girls, with three soldiers captured by BDB (Benghazi Defense Brigades - another Islamist fighting militia supported by Misrata and allied with BRSC) earlier in the battle for the oil crescent on March 2. The freed women were then taken to Misrata city where previously evacuated BRSC families agreed to host them. The women who were exchanged are:
Fatma Ali al-Shaikhi
Marawa Mohammed Omar 14/15 years old
Mouna Mohammed Omar 14/15 years old
Alaa Nasser al-Faitouri
Shifaa Nasser al-Faitouri
Souaad Nasser al-Faitouri
They were freed in exchange for the following three soldiers from Haftar’s militias:
Hamad Bashir al-Fakhry
Abdel Latif Emrayf al-Dressy
The video below shows the two young girls captured in Ganfouda where they are interviewed by an LNA fighter and asked about their names. They tell the interviewer that they were beaten with their mother by an LNA fighter during the evacuation, but the interviewer ignores that.
The woman who is looking into the camera in the photo below was not included in this exchange of captives between Haftar and BRSC. According to her niece Esra Ali Hamza, who is a Libyan Candian, she is called Ebtisam al-Jarari and lost her mother, her two sisters, and her two brothers in Ganfouda during the evacuation.
Al-Jarari was, however, later released in another exchange of captives with BDB on April 22 along with three other women and four children in exchange for five LNA fighters.
But why did the BRSC fighters take their families to a conflict zone in the first place? Well, because after Haftar’s militias started to gain foot on the ground in Benghazi in the end of 2014, they started to attack the houses of the families of any members of BRSC in Benghazi using armed mobs of civilians who are pro Haftar. Many were burnt and destroyed. The two well-known examples of this are al-Kerchini family house and al-Swede family house.
Both were besieged and attacked while the families were inside their houses without any prior warning. Al-Kerchini family lost two of its sons and four were severly injured. Al-Swede family lost three sons and their father, who was in his eighties, in one day. The businesses of these families, such as factories, shops, and all their belongings were confiscated by these mobs after they were forced to evacuate their houses. As a result, after these brutal attacks on civilians, many BRSC families fled to Tripoli or Misrata. However, some did not manage to flee Benghazi and hence they had to flee to Ganfouda district where they could be safe from these mobs under the protection of the BRSC fighters.
Soon after the BRSC families fled to Ganfouda, it became under military blockade, with Haftar's militias controlling the roads in and out of the area. Food, water and electricity supplies were also cut off, creating a dire humanitarian situation for the families of BRSC fighters that lasted about two years and which finally pushed them to do the risky evacuation in March 18.
The video below shows a member of the LNA explaining how they shamefully attacked the houses of the families of BRSC fighters in Benghazi. This is just another evidence of disrespecting international humanitarian laws by Haftar's militias in broad daylight.
Desecration of the bodies of fighters is prohibited by both the Libyan law and international law. Articles 292 and 293 of the Libyan Penal Code prohibit the desecration of dead bodies. International humanitarian law obligates all conflict parties to take all possible measures to prevent bodies of deceased fighters from being desecrated and to endeavor to return the bodies of the deceased upon the request of their families.
These war crimes are causing deep scars and creating a culture of revenge in the Libyan society for years to come. This, as a result, will affect the process of national reconciliation and slow down the social healing considerably even after this civil war comes to an end.
Previous calls by international organizations have not resulted in transparent prosecution even in cases where there has been a clear evidence of criminal acts because of the impunity of these militias, and hence any promises to investigate these crimes internally, definitely, ring hollow.
In July last year, for example, bodies of 14 people, including women, were found dumped in al-Laithi district in Benghazi after being abducted by the LNA from their houses or from their places of work. They had been torutured and had their arms bound behind their backs before they were shot dead. Up to this date, neither the LNA nor the state’s law enforcement agencies have conducted effective investigations into this crime, other summary executions, or abductions in Benghazi.
Haftar cannot be allowed to think he can get away with it any more. Therefore, the UN and the ICC must bring those responsible, including Haftar and his henchman, Mahmoud al-Warfalli, to justice in order to send a clear message to those who order or commit heinous crimes that they are not above the law and will not go unpunished.