Amnesty calls for UN sanctions, war crimes probe in Libya

The battle over Benghazi is part of a wider conflict involving two major factions.

FILE: A picture taken on 17 August 2014 shows a tank during fighting between rival militias around Tripoli international airport. Picture: AFP.

TRIPOLI - Rights group Amnesty International has called for targeted UN sanctions and investigations into possible war crimes in Libya to end a cycle of abductions and summary killings by rival armed factions.

An Amnesty report released on Wednesday focused on Benghazi, where an alliance of Islamist militants and ex-rebels, known as Shura Council, has battled for months with forces allied to army General Khalifa Haftar, who declared war on Islamist extremists.

The battle over Benghazi is part of a wider conflict involving two major factions and their competing governments struggling for control of the North African state and its oil resources four years after civil war ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

London-based Amnesty said that the fighting in Benghazi, the main city in eastern Libya, involved tit-for-tat attacks, abductions, summary killings and torture by each side.

"Benghazi has steadily descended into chaos and misrule. The city has been ripped apart by spiralling violence waged by rival groups and their supporters seeking vengeance," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, a regional deputy director for Amnesty.

Amnesty's statement called for an international demonstration of will to investigate war crimes and hold perpetrators accountable as a way to end impunity.

Amnesty called on the UN Security Council to impose targeted sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes on those responsible for violations. It said the International Criminal Court should also expand its probe into war crimes.

Amnesty accused both forces from the Shura Council and fighters allied to Haftar's Operation Dignity of carrying out abductions and assassinations for political motives.

The UN is negotiating in Geneva with some of Libya's factions to form a unity government, end hostilities and return the country to some stability. But key factions from Tripoli have so far stayed away.

"Efforts to reach a political settlement will be meaningless if they do not ensure human rights concerns are addressed," Amnesty said. "Human rights abuses committed by the warring parties are fuelling grievances and cannot be swept under the carpet."