The International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said on Monday she will open investigations into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity following the discovery of multiple mass graves in Libya.
Bensouda said in a statement her office had received credible information regarding eleven alleged mass graves in the city of Tarhuna and its surroundings.
“My Office looks forward to cooperating with the Libyan authorities, the United Nations, and all relevant partners working to investigate this evidence of potential atrocity crimes in Tarhuna,” she said.
Libya has been dogged by conflict for years, with the violence escalating over the past year as troops loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord battling the Libyan National Army (LNA) under the command of Khalifa Haftar.
The war has killed thousands and displaced hundred of thousands as each faction claims legitimacy.
In Bensouda’s statement on Monday, she urged the warring factions to “fully respect the rules of international humanitarian law. This includes taking all necessary measures to protect civilians, and civilian infrastructure, including schools, health facilities and detention centres.”
“I reiterate my concern at the grave escalation of violence and the high numbers of civilian casualties, reportedly largely resulting from airstrikes and shelling operations,” she said.
“I also note with grave concern media and other reports of a marked increase in the quantity and quality of military equipment recently deployed to Libya.”
Earlier this month, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a “thorough and transparent investigation”, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. In particular, he called on the authorities to “secure the mass graves, identify the victims, establish causes of death and return the bodies to next of kin”, and assured Libya that the United Nations has offered support in this regard.
During a recent Security Council meeting on Libya, Stephanie Williams, the head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), briefed that Libyans had to deal with almost constant bombardment, and frequent water and electricity outages during the holy month of Ramadan.