Tuesday, November 28, 2023

ICC Prosecutor statement on the discovery of mass graves in Libya

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Statement of ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, on the discovery of multiple alleged mass graves and continued violence in Libya:“I will not hesitate to expand my investigations and potential prosecutions to cover any new instances of crimes.”

I am deeply concerned by recent reports concerning multiple mass graves found in the city of Tarhuna and its surroundings in Libya. My Office has received credible information regarding eleven alleged mass graves containing men, women and children. These findings may constitute evidence of war crimes or crimes against humanity.

I call on the Libyan authorities to take all the necessary measures to protect and secure the mass grave sites and to ensure that all actions taken in this regard are conducted in a manner that will not prejudice future investigations. 

I welcome the decision of the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, offering support in this regard, through the statement of 12 June 2020. 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.

In addition, 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.

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.

I repeat what I stated to the UN Security Council in May: intentionally directing an attack against a civilian population, or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities, is a war crime under the Rome Statute. The Rome Statute also prohibits the intentional directing of attacks against hospitals and other buildings protected under international law, such as those dedicated to religion or education, when they are not military objectives. Even where a military objective is involved, the attack must not cause clearly excessive harm to civilians.

I call on all parties and armed groups involved in the fighting 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.

In particular, I call on all commanders, be they military or civilian, to take all necessary measures to comply with their individual duty to prevent and punish crimes by subordinates under their effective command or control.

As I have stated, the situation in Libya continues to be a priority situation for my Office. I will therefore not hesitate to expand my investigations and potential prosecutions to cover any new instances of crimes.

Any group or individual with information regarding the commission of alleged crimes in Libya since February 2011 is urged to contact my Office by email at: Libya@icc-cpi.int.

Atrocity crimes must not be tolerated.

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