On 15 August 2017, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant of arrest for Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli, Commander of Al-Saqia Bridage, a unit of the Libyan National Army (LNA). This is the first warrant of arrest to be issued by the ICC in the Libya investigation that relates to crimes committed beyond the context of the 2011 uprising. LFJL welcomes this significant development as a step towards ending impunity and calls on the Libyan state to support such efforts to combat ongoing rights violations.
The warrant of arrest charges Al-Werfalli with murder as a war crime in relation to his alleged involvement in the killings of 33 people, over seven incidents, during the estimated period from 3 June 2016 to 17 July 2017.
The warrant of arrest is groundbreaking, as it is the first time the Pre-Trial Chamber has confirmed that the ICC’s jurisdiction extends to the grave international crimes that continue to be committed in Libya. The arrest warrant demonstrates a renewed commitment by the ICC to investigate the situation in Libya and a follow up to the Prosecutor’s reports to the UN Security Council. LFJL, which has regularly called for investigations into ongoing crimes, including the summary executions committed in eastern Libya referred to in the warrant of arrest, welcomes the new prospect of accountability for such violations.LFJL Director, Elham Saudi stated, “the ICC has made an important step in publicly recognising that its mandate in Libya extends beyond the immediate aftermath of February 2011. The warrant of arrest offers a significant prospect for accountability and sends a renewed message to those who have perpetrated, and continue to perpetrate, heinous crimes that the culture of impunity in Libya will not be tolerated.”
Al-Wefalli’s relationship with the LNA, a group intimately involved in the Libyan peace process, highlights the need for all prospective members of Libya’s future government to be vetted to ensure they are not responsible for serious human rights abuses. Individuals who have conducted human rights violations pose a significant risk to Libyan society and its values if they are allowed to assume public office. Their involvement in the operations of the State would undermine the future government’s credibility and trust that are vital for peace.
Saudi noted “The alleged crimes of Al-Werfalli are heinous and barbaric; but, unfortunately, are all too common in Libya. The Libyan State must do all it can to protect itself and the transition, by ensuring the country does not protect criminals or institutionalise human rights violations.”
In light of these developments, LFJL calls on the Libyan State and members of the International Community to facilitate Al-Werfalli’s surrender to the ICC immediately. LFJL urges the Libyan State to ratify the Rome Statute and to do more to ensure domestic investigations and fair trials for human rights violations are able to progress. LFJL strongly recommends that the Government of National Accord take immediate steps to ensure that vetting measures of its members’ human rights records are put in place. LFJL encourages the ICC to continue to investigate crimes committed in Libya and to ensure that its efforts are communicated effectively to the Libyan public.