Since August 2016, the United Nations Special Mission to Libya’s (UNSMIL) has failed to facilitate an evacuation of civilians from Ganfouda. In December 2016 a well-respected Libyan tribe, Werfalla Social Council, took the onus of negotiating a deal with Haftar’s Libyan National Army. However, the Werfalla representatives have withdrawn from discussions because the LNA has refused once again to allow for a sea evacuation and demanded interrogation of men. The Benghazi Revolutionary Shurah Council (BRSC) had accepted the terms of the Werfalla tribe. The Werfalla tribe could not guarantee civilians safety while in the control of the LNA. The LNA is refusing to allow a third party to facilitate an evacuation.
On December 10th UNSMIL issued a statement expressing concern for the civilians remaining in Ganfouda and calling for an evacuation. Martin Kobler, head of the mission, reminded the parties to abide by international human rights and humanitarian laws, which explicitly prevent attacks of any kind on civilians and their use as human shields. However, since that day UNSMIL and Kobler have remained silent while no evacuation has been provided and many children have been killed by indiscriminate LNA and foreign airstrikes on civilian homes.
Two days ago the LNA Spokesperson announced that all ISIS have left eastern Libya including Ganfouda. While this should have been a relief for the civilians and an end to their siege, the LNA has continued to bomb civilian homes and maintain their entrapment of the families. The most recent killings include two civilian fathers and 14-year old child from an LNA air strike on January 3rd and five children and a foreign worker by collaborating foreign air strikes onJanuary 6th. Several children were injured.
The Voices of Liberty and Justice in Ganfouda (VLJG) has submitted new images of killed civilians and children to the International Criminal Court, upon request, as further evidence of war crimes by the Libyan National Army.
Families have reported to the #FREEGANFOUDA hotline that women and children are at a peak of psychological torture and are living in extreme fear. Due to demolished homes, multiple families are living together increasing the risk of even more deaths if attacked by an airstrike.
The continued silence of UNSMIL, the UN Security Council, the United States and other foreign states is allowing for militias and fighters on both sides of this conflict, but particularly the LNA, to violate international law and rules of war without accountability and at the cost of civilian lives.
Since the LNA has confirmed that ISIS has completely left Ganfouda, the international community should condemn any further war in Ganfouda and call for the LNA to evacuate families immediately through a safe monitored passage.
The world, including the UN and NATO’s nearby Operation Sophia must put a stop to these war crimes and massacre of innocent children and civilians. The ICC must expedite its efforts, to preserve sanity and life of the remaining civilian families.