On June 11, 2020, the UNSMIL (UN Support Mission in Libya) has expressed “horror” at reports of at least eight mass graves discovered in an area retaken last week by the country’s internationally recognized government GNA from renegade military commander Khalifa HAFTAR’s forces.
Most of the graves were found in Tarhuna, in western Libya, HAFTAR’s last remaining stronghold.
Tarhuna was used by his forces as a launchpad during an ill-fated 14-month offensive to seize the capital from the GNA.
The Press Office of the Libyan government’s Burkan Al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) Operation shared images of the mass graves.
“So far, two bodies have been exhumed. The region is full of corpses” Lutfi Tevfik MISRATI the head of an office investigating disappeared people in the country said to Anadolu Agency. “We think that there are 10 to 12 bodies in another grave in the field. Graves were found at five or more different points”.
MISRATI said the authorities will perform an autopsy for the dead bodies and the necessary steps will be taken for their burial.
Fathi BASHAGA the Libyan Interior Minister announced that HAFTAR’s militias burned some prisoners in containers, and buried tens of others alive in mass graves, according to initial reports.
BASHAGA said that the Libyan security forces documented many “crimes against humanity” committed by HAFTAR’s militias in the city of Tarhuna.
UNSMIL called for launching an investigation into the incident.
“UNSMIL notes with horror reports on the discovery of at least eight mass graves in past days, the majority of them in Tarhuna” UNSMIL tweeted. “International law requires that the authorities conduct prompt, effective & transparent investigations into all alleged cases of unlawful deaths.”
On June 12 Libya announced that it had found 106 bodies, including women and children, in a hospital in Tarhuna soon after it was liberated from HAFTAR’s forces.
Burkan Al-Ghadab Operation said that according to initial evaluations, the victims had been executed.
Amin al-HASHEMI Health Ministry spokesperson said there were signs of torture on most of the bodies.
The Libyan army awaits government orders to start an operation to liberate Sirte city from HAFTAR’s militia.
Human Rights Watch Libya senior researcher Hanan SALAH said the GNA should invite neutral international forensic experts to help preserve possible evidence of crimes and identify the remains.
“We urge the GNA to follow through with their promise to investigate apparent mass graves in a speedy and transparent manner,” she said.
This article was edited using the data from the Aljazeera.com, Dw.com, Cnn.com, and Tribune.com.pk.