The United Nations says it has received “deeply disturbing” reports of deaths, destruction and looting from areas recently recaptured by forces of the internationally-recognized Libyan government, calling on the warring sides to respect the rule of law.
Forces of the Tripoli-based Libyan government on Thursday regained control of more areas in southern Tripoli as part of an advance ending a 14-month offensive on the capital by eastern-based militias led by renegade general Khalifa Haftar.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) on Sunday issued a statement and said it was “alarmed by the harm inflicted on the civilian population by the continuing cycle of violence in Libya.
“The recent military movements in Greater Tripoli and Tarhouna have led to new waves of displacement and suffering of over 16,000 Libyans in the past few days,” the statement added.
The statement said the UN had received “deeply disturbing” reports of dead bodies discovered at a Tarhouna hospital.
“We have also received numerous reports of the looting and destruction of public and private property in Tarhouna and Alasabaa,” it added.
The UNSMIL warned in its statement that “some cases appear to be acts of retribution and revenge,” urging the authorities in Tripoli to launch a prompt and impartial investigation into the reports.
The warring sides in Libya need to respect “the rule of law, international human rights law and humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including health facilities ... particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the UN mission said in the statement.
In the past days, videos have emerged online reportedly showing looting of shops and torching of houses belonging to affiliates of Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army (LNA).
According to Reuters, the Tripoli government has warned its forces that reprisals in recaptured areas would be punished.
The Tripoli-based Justice Ministry also said more than 100 bodies had been discovered in a morgue when forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA) entered Tarhouna.
Elsewhere in the statement, the UNSMIL said it was “encouraged” by calls for the resolution of the Libyan conflict, adding that fighting for control of the capital “has proven, beyond any doubt, that any war among Libyans is a losing war.”
The statement urged Libyan parties to “engage swiftly and constructively” in the UN-brokered talks aimed at reaching a lasting ceasefire agreement.
Libya plunged into chaos in 2011 when a popular uprising backed by a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Since then the oil-producing North African country has been divided between forces affiliated either with the GNA, backed by Turkey, or the LNA, supported by the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan.