Residents of Libya’s Tarhuna complained on Sunday of looting and violations committed by forces loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) after they recaptured the city.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya expressed its concern over the violations. “Reports of the discovery of a number of corpses at the hospital in Tarhuna are deeply disturbing. The Mission has called upon GNA authorities to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation.”
“We have also received numerous reports of the looting and destruction of public and private property in Tarhuna and Alasabaa which in some cases appear to be acts of retribution and revenge that risk further fraying Libya’s social fabric,” it added in a statement Sunday.
With Turkish backing, GNA forces have managed to recapture major areas of northwestern Libya, pushing back the east-based Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar. The GNA has set its sights on the coastal city of Sirte, but has been repelled by an LNA counterattack.
The LNA continued to reinforce its troops in positions east of Misrata city, saying it has deployed its rapid forces to the area.
Meanwhile, GNA Interior Minister Fathi Basagha rejected on Sunday the Cairo Declaration that called for a ceasefire in Libya and resumption of the political process. He said: "Libya cannot be complete without its East."
He added that all regions in the West and South should come under GNA control before any negotiations.
"The tragedy that has beset Libya for more than a year has proven, beyond any doubt, that any war among Libyans is a losing war. There can be no real victor, only heavy losses for the nation and its people, who have already suffered due to conflict for more than nine years," said the UN mission.
"A political solution to Libya’s longstanding crisis remains within grasp and the Mission, as ever, stands ready to convene a fully inclusive Libyan-led and Libyan-owned political process. We are encouraged by recent calls on the part of Libyan leaders for the resumption of such talks with an aim towards ending the fighting and division. This can pave the way for a comprehensive political solution based on the Libyan Political Agreement and within the framework of the Berlin Conference Conclusions, UN Security Council Resolution 2510, and other relevant resolutions.
"In order for talks to resume in earnest, the guns must be silenced. In that light, UNMSIL welcomes the calls by international and regional actors in recent days for an immediate cessation of hostilities in Libya. UNSMIL calls on the Libyan parties to engage swiftly and constructively in the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) talks in order to reach a lasting ceasefire agreement. The 5+5 talks must be accompanied by firm implementation of and respect for the recently renewed UN Arms Embargo on Libya," it added.
Looting in Tarhuna
In Tarhuna, locals condemned GNA forces for their violations against them and for destroying several private and public establishments, amid a small wave of displacement towards the East.
Hundreds of families were seen over the past two days fleeing the city towards al-Jafra and regions further east, drawing the UN mission's concern.
The GNA Interior Ministry had urged its supporters against attacking the people or exploiting the chaos to carry out reprisals and other crimes. It vowed that it will hold perpetrators accountable, regardless of their position.
Locals told the media that as soon as they entered Tarhuna, GNA forces began looting shops and searching for LNA supporters in order to carry out reprisals for alleged "past crimes".
Libyan analyst Ali Jamaa Ali said: "The crimes committed in Tarhuna, no matter how great, do not justify the reprisals and destruction of property."
The pro-GNA analyst added: "These horrendous crimes must be documented and the perpetrators must be put on trial immediately. If we don't, then we will remain in the same cycle of vengeance." He stressed the need for security and justice to reign if the Libyans truly wanted the establishment of a capable state.
"A legitimate state that is respected by all must first start by imposing security and fair justice to all," he stressed.
Footage on Sunday showed Tarhuna's famed Al-Shaqiqa mall in flames with pro-GNA forces breaking into the facility with a large armored vehicle.
The GNA Interior Ministry urged its loyalists to "set an example" and prove wrong the "lies of the enemy" that had accused them of being the cause of such crimes. It vowed to hold violators to account.
The east-based Foreign Ministry called on international agencies to witness for themselves the crimes and violations committed by the GNA militias in the West. It said some violations in Tarhuna, Qasr bin Ghashir and other towns are punishable by international law.