In response to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (the ICC or the Court) Karim Khan’s meeting with commander of self-styled armed group the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) Khalifa Haftar at his office in Benghazi, Libyan civil society demand an apology and accountability for the Prosecutor’s actions.
Khalifa Haftar is allegedly responsible for a plethora of serious international crimes and human rights violations. He has been charged with war crimes by a US court, is subject to a criminal investigation in France for allegations of torture, and has previously refused to cooperate with the ICC by failing to handover a wanted suspect. In his briefing to the United Nations Security Council in April 2022, Karim Khan announced that his Office had collected a range of evidence that the LAAF committed serious international crimes, including “indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling of civilian areas; arbitrary abduction; detention and torture of civilians; extrajudicial killings; enforced disappearances; and pillaging of civilian property.” Only last week, Haftar announced another planned military attack on Tripoli.
The Prosecutor’s meeting with Haftar is highly offensive not just to the victims of Haftar’s alleged crimes, but to all victims and affected communities of crimes that the Court was established to investigate and prosecute. It is made worse by the fact that this meeting took place shortly after the Prosecutor met with survivor groups and the families of victims in the city of Tarhouna, formerly held by Haftar and the site of multiple mass graves under investigation by the ICC and the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya.
The insensitivity of the Prosecutor to the situation on the ground is a shocking insult to human rights defenders and civil society actors who have been working tirelessly, to the detriment of their own safety and security, to support the work of the Court.
“This meeting has shaken our confidence in the court’s ability to deliver justice and it has confirmed that it is politicised! How can the OTP meet with a torturer in his office? We were expecting arrest warrants for those responsible for war crimes in Libya, not shaking hands and exchanging smiles.” said Ali Alasbali, President of Libyan Crimes Watch and former detainee in Gernada prison under LAAF control.
Karim Khan’s willingness to openly meet with the head of an armed group tussling for political and international legitimacy seriously undermines the credibility of the Court, calling into question its impartiality and legitimacy to examine the situation in Libya. As a result, the trust of victims and all Libyans, and their willingness to collaborate with the Court, has been severely damaged. This will ultimately impede the ability of the Court to investigate crimes committed.
“It is saddening to see the guardians of international justice and those entrusted with it shaking the hands of the most responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity instead of holding them accountable, is a frustrating and disappointing spectacle for victims and human rights defenders,” said another human rights defender who works closely with victims in Tarhouna.
The undersigned Libyan organisations demand an apology from the ICC and the Prosecutor to victims and civil society in Libya. We also demand the ICC to investigate the actions of Karim Khan and ensure that he is held accountable through necessary disciplinary action.
Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL)
Libya Crimes Watch
Tamazigh Women's Movement
Libyan Center for Freedom of Press