The families have not been able to leave as safe passage has been denied by Haftar’s forces and the Government of National Accord has been unsuccessful in evacuating the families and the United Nations Special Mission to Libya (UNSMIL) has remained silent as these crimes against humanity continue.
The international community must be held accountable and urged to speak out and immediately act to secure a ceasefire and the urgent evacuation of these civilian families.
Evidence has been documented of war crimes against civilians in Ganfouda. We urge the United Nations Security Council to intervene and for the UN Special Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) to speak out and facilitate a ceasefire and the immediate evacuation of the families to Tripoli.
It is imperative and legally required by International law, that while families await their evacuation to safety, that Haftar’s forces and militant factions are ordered to not approach the families to avoid widespread war crimes as per the July war crime in Benghazi and the video evidence of persistent publicly stated intent to commit horrific war crimes against the families.
In Libya in 2011, an American-led coalition helped to topple Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s 42-year dictatorship. Unfortunately, the coalition’s lack of engagement with the country’s transition allowed a political void to form that a number of groups have since then fought to fill. This has worsened the country’s security crisis, as opposing groups have claimed the right to govern.
Today the country suffers from political and military division between those who want Libya to move forward via the internationally-backed unity government (the Government of National Accord) versus General Khalifa Hifter and the Tobruk based House of Representatives he aligns with, who have taken control of a large part of the east and are fighting anyone who opposes his power in the name of ‘combating terrorism’.
General Haftar’s forces is an alliance of militias, which he has named the “Libyan National Army”, who are fighting opposition in Derna and Benghazi who he claims to be terrorists.
At the forefront of this opposition is the Benghazi Shura Council, an alliance of armed groups. While in the past it is true some of these local armed groups had allied with ISIS against Haftar, today they are simply opposition to Haftar’s merciless crimes against the people of Benghazi and specifically Ganfouda.
ISIS is now confined in Sirte, about 600 km east of Benghazi. ISIS fled untouched through land controlled by General Khalifa Haftar with their armed equipment and militiamen. It is unclear how – but some claim agreements were made between ISIS and Haftar’s forces.
For two years Benghazi including a south suburb called Ganfouda have been under siege by General Khalifa Haftar’s military “Operation Dignity.” The UN-backed Government and Human Rights Organizations have documented from 126 to 133 civilian families who are currently being held captive in this area.
The continuous attacks from sea, land and air by General Haftar and his militias have resulting in demolished homes and over 30 deaths and counting – a situation that amounts to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The families cannot escape as their being held captive in this restricted are by Haftar’s forces for political capital.