Amnesty International Monday accused armed group Tariq Ben Zeyad (TBZ) of committing war crimes and other human rights abuses to enforce the reign of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) and its leader Khalifa Haftar. In a research briefing, Amnesty International detailed incidences of forced disappearances, unlawful killings, torture and mistreatment of refugees.
After Libya’s 2011 armed conflict which ended the 42-year repressive rule of Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi, the country has been “proliferated” by armed groups and militias. These militias have since been famed for their deadly brutality. The LAAF, previously known as the Libyan National Army, controls large cities as well as the eastern portion of Libya. The TBZ is itself headed by Haftar’s son Saddam, and exists primarily to enforce his rule through a forceful campaign of military operations.
Since the TBZ’s formation in 2016, organisations like the UN and Amnesty International have documented its human rights abuses. Amnesty International spoke to 38 current or former residents of LAAF territory who have faced the group’s tactics. The rights group documented 25 cases wherein individuals were unlawfully deprived of their liberty after opposition to the TBZ. The bodies of three individuals were found dumped in TBZ territory “within days or weeks of their abduction,” and fifteen were released after spending time in prison “without contact” with the outside world and often after paying “extortionate ransoms.” The others remain “forcibly disappeared” or “arbitrarily detained” by the TBZ.
Summarily, Amnesty International found that “TBZ fighters have systematically targeted actual or perceived LAAF opponents or critics to stamp out and deter any dissent or challenge to the TBZ’s iron grip of large parts of eastern and southern Libya.” Amnesty International called for an end to the “absolute impunity” that TBZ fighters and commanders enjoy, saying:
Under international law, individuals responsible for crimes under international law should be investigated and appropriately brought to justice… Under international humanitarian and criminal law, military commanders and other superiors, including civilian officials, can be held criminally accountable for the acts of their subordinates under the principle of superior or command responsibility.
The group also urged Libyan authorities to ensure “prompt, impartial, independent and comprehensive investigations” into the TBZ’s crimes under international law.