Rights group says militias committed "war crimes"

AP News
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Posted: Sep 08, 2014 8:54 AM

CAIRO (AP) — An international rights group on Monday accused warring militias in Libya of committing violations that amount to war crimes during a battle the past month for control over the capital's airport.

The five weeks of fighting over Tripoli's airport, along with a parallel battle between militias in Libya's second largest city Benghazi, drove some 100,000 Libyans from their homes and prompted 150,000 foreigners to flee the country. The battles over the past week have been Libya's worst bout of violence since the 2011 civil war that ousted Moammar Gadhafi.

The battle over the airport pilled militias from the coastal city of Misrata, which are allied with the country's Islamists, against militias from the western mountain town of Zintan. It ended with Misrata militias capturing the airport and largely seizing control of the entire capital.

Human Rights Watch said it in its report issued Monday that both sides committed serious violations during the fighting, including attacking civilians, indiscriminate bombardment and destruction, looting and burning of properties.

Commanders of the militias from both sides, along with their allies, risk "being first in line for possible sanctions and international prosecution," said the group's Middle East and North Africa director, Sarah Leah Whitson.

After the battle ended, militias committed further violations, carrying out reprisals against civilians who back their rivals, Human Rights Watch said. The Misrata miltias attacked a TV station and journalists seen as sympathetic to their opponents, as well as a camp of displaced residents of a town neighboring Misrata that the miliias accuse of backing Gadhafi.

The Misrata militas also attacked at least 80 families from Zintan living in Tripoli, the group said. Activists and lawmakers from both sides have been abducted.

The HRW report came on the heels of The United Nations Security Council resolution on Aug. 27 which imposed sanctions on people engaged or supporting acts that "threaten the peace, stability and security of Libya or obstruct or undermine the successful completion of its political transition."