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HRW: Russia’s Wagner Group Set Landmines in Libya

HRW: Russia’s Wagner Group Set Landmines in Libya

Wednesday, 1 June, 2022 - 06:45
Libyan deminers stand around a pickup truck with boxes of dismantled mines and remnants of other explosives in Salah al-Din, south of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, June 15, 2020. AFP

The Wagner Group, a private Russian military security contractor, has used banned landmines and booby traps near Tripoli, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.

“New information from Libyan agencies and demining groups links the Wagner Group to the use of banned landmines and booby traps in Libya in 2019-2020,” it said in a report.

HRW therefore called on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, to examine the role of Libyan and foreign armed groups in laying antipersonnel mines during the conflict.

“These mines killed at least three Libyan de-miners before the mines’ locations were identified,” HRW stressed.

Lama Fakih, HRW Middle East and North Africa director, said the Wagner Group added to the deadly legacy of mines and booby traps scattered across Tripoli’s suburbs that has made it dangerous for people to return to their homes.

“A credible and transparent international inquiry is needed to ensure justice for the many civilians and deminers unlawfully killed and maimed by these weapons,” she said.

Fakih added that antipersonnel landmines, which are designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity, or contact of a person, violate international humanitarian law because they cannot discriminate between civilians and combatants.

HRW’s report said the mines and booby traps found at the 35 coordinates were hidden inside homes and other structures, in some cases inside furniture and were often activated with a tripwire that was not visible.

Mine experts also told the NGO that the mines and booby traps apparently constructed by Wagner operatives were more sophisticated and lethal than those laid by Libyan, Sudanese, or Syrian groups.

According to the Libyan Mine Action Center, LibMAC, of the 130 people killed and 196 injured in Libya between May 2020 and March 2022 by mines and other explosive ordnance, most were civilians in Tripoli’s southern suburbs.

In this regard, Fakih said, “Independent of an international inquiry, Libyan courts need to impartially investigate and appropriately prosecute commanders and fighters – including foreigners – for war crimes in Libya.”

Meanwhile, the Libyan Oil and Gas Ministry warned on Tuesday from the outcomes of closing the country’s major oil fields and ports on Libya’s economy and the infrastructure of the oil sector.

A committee formed by the ministry to investigate the closure of oil ports and fields confirmed that civilian groups are not connected to the closure process.

“A military entity is behind the shutting down of oil fields. This entity is represented by the Petroleum Facilities Guard, which took instructions from certain political parties,” it said.

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