Libyan Official: Haftar not Willing to Turn in ICC-Wanted Werfali

Field Marshal Haftar is commander of the Libyan National Army. Philippe Wojazer / Reuters
Field Marshal Haftar is commander of the Libyan National Army. Philippe Wojazer / Reuters
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Libyan Official: Haftar not Willing to Turn in ICC-Wanted Werfali

Field Marshal Haftar is commander of the Libyan National Army. Philippe Wojazer / Reuters
Field Marshal Haftar is commander of the Libyan National Army. Philippe Wojazer / Reuters

Libyan National Army Commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar held his position refusing to hand over LNA Saiqa Special Forces officer Mahmoud Werfali to the International Criminal Court.

A Benghazi-based official advocated for Werfali’s innocence.

"Werfali is innocent of all charges, and the commander-in-chief will not hand him over to anyone," the official told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“The LNA Saiqa Special Forces officer has been put through interrogation concerning posed allegations, yet his involvement was not substantiated,” the official added.

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Werfali, a commander in the Al-Saiqa Brigade, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday.

"We have arrested Werfali based on reports we have received, but so far there is no concrete evidence. If these crimes are proven, there will be a trial and a conviction," Haftar said.

Haftar addressed the international community saying: "There are crimes being committed in Libya every day, so why are you focusing only on Werfali?"

A video posted by media outlets and on social networking sites in Libya in September showed Werfali overseeing the execution of 20 prisoners who were said to be fighting with “extremist groups” in Benghazi.

"Instead of the West lifting the ban on arming the Libyan army, which fights terrorists, it supports illegitimate parties," added Haftar.

ICC Prosecutor Bensouda said Werfali should be tried “for his direct participation in seven separate rounds of executions, in which a total of 33 people were murdered in cold blood in Benghazi or surrounding areas.”

"The ICC should focus on the arrest of those who killed and displaced men, women and children and who committed torture, murders and destructive acts in Libya," said LNA spokesman Milad al-Zawawi.

Last May, Werfali announced his resignation from the Special Forces, but it was rejected by the General Command. The following month, a UN panel of experts said he was involved in "managing secret detention black sites outside Benghazi."

In the same vein, Egypt’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador Amr Abul Atta, responded to the ICC’s request to extradite Wefrali, saying that "the Rome Convention provides that the international tribunal cannot consider (pending cases) such as Werfali Trial so long that Libya’s jurisdictional authority is covering the case.

Atta also called on the court to not show bias through singling out a Libyan faction while overlooking others.



UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
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UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)

Palestinians in the Israeli occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are suffering a drastically worsening human rights environment, alongside "unconscionable death and suffering" in the Gaza Strip, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday.

"The situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is dramatically deteriorating," Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The West Bank, where the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule under Israeli occupation, has seen the worst unrest for decades, in parallel with the war in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

Turk said that from the start of the Gaza war in October through mid-June, 528 Palestinians, 133 of them children, had been killed by Israeli security forces or settlers in the West Bank, in some cases raising "serious concerns of unlawful killings".

Twenty-three Israelis have been killed in the West Bank and Israel in clashes with or attacks by Palestinians, he said.

In Gaza, Turk said he was "appalled by the disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law" by parties to the war.

"Israel's relentless strikes in Gaza are causing immense suffering and widespread destruction, and the arbitrary denial and obstruction of humanitarian aid have continued," Turk said.

"Israel continues to detain arbitrarily thousands of Palestinians. This must not continue."

He added that Palestinian armed groups were continuing to hold hostages, including in populated areas, which put both the hostages and civilians at risk.

Israel's permanent mission to the UN in Geneva accused Turk of "completely omitting the cruelty and barbarity of terrorism" in his address to the UN Human Rights Council.

"Hostilities in Gaza are the direct result of Hamas terrorism, decades of rocket-fire and incitement against the Jewish people and the State of Israel, culminating in its brutal attacks against Israel on October 7," the diplomatic mission said in a statement.

Israel's ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led fighters stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in Gaza, according to its health authorities, and left much of the enclave's population homeless.