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UN Warns Against the Targeting of Civilians in Benghazi

(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)

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In an open letter published on Saturday, the head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Martin Kobler warned that any attacks committing by the various militias currently fighting in Benghazi which targeted civilians could amount to war crimes.

Kobler expressed his concern about the “repeated violations of international humanitarian law, some of which may amount to war crimes, which are recurring in Benghazi. Recent weeks in particular have witnessed the shelling of residential areas with civilians killed in the streets and a hospital being hit.”

In the statement, Kobler set out to remind the militias operating in Benghazi that any direct or indirect attacks against civilians or medical facilities are war crimes under international humanitarian law.

“All parties must desist from such attacks,” he stressed.

The UN official stated that UNSMIL has been trying for months to seek an agreement with the warring parties, who reportedly include forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar among the various Islamist militias operating for control of the city, to a humanitarian ceasefire to ensure the evacuation of civilians and the injured.

Kobler stressed, “I would also like to reiterate my call to ensure the safe evacuation of any civilians still trapped and wishing to leave the areas where hostilities are taking place, and to ensure that all civilians, including relatives of suspected fighters, are protected from arbitrary detention and any other reprisals.”

“Those deprived of their liberty, including fighters, should be treated humanely and protected from torture or other ill-treatment. The wounded must be cared for. Collective punishments are also prohibited, he said.

Attacks on residential areas in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, intensified during the past few weeks. On May 7, six people were killed and over 30 injured after a pro-Haftar demonstration came under mortar attack.

In addition, the Benghazi Medical Centre had come under attack several times this month, including an attack last week which damaged an intensive care unit, and most recently a car was hit in the hospital compound.

Kobler said he supported that International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda plans to expand investigations for possible war crimes committed in Libya.

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