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In Libyan metropolis, mass graves evoke stakes of faltering peace push

  • Over 200 our bodies in mass graves in metropolis of Tarhouna
  • Leaving grisly legacy, Kaniyat militia fled to east
  • Peacemaking envisages elections after decade of chaos
  • Tarhouna residents search justice for Kaniyat crimes
  • But concern compromises for peace might spare perpetrators

TARHOUNA, Libya, Oct 13 (Reuters) – Workers within the Libyan metropolis of Tarhouna have spent greater than a yr exhuming our bodies from mass graves that present the associated fee of a decade of battle and the excessive stakes of a fragile peace plan that has left victims on the sidelines.

Tarhouna was held by the native Kaniyat militia from 2012 till its seize final yr by pro-Tripoli authorities forces, leaving a grisly legacy that symbolises the North African nation’s misplaced decade of anarchy and violence.

As a peace course of has unfolded this yr aimed toward holding each presidential and parliamentary elections, the folks of Tarhouna know they stand little probability of justice if Libya stays divided between warring factions.

But some additionally concern that the compromises required to cease the method falling aside might imply forgetting previous crimes and even elevating those that ordered or abetted them.

“They killed all who refused to cooperate with them. They left no children or women. They left no one,” mentioned Mabrouka Saleh Abu Kleish, 76, describing the tyranny of a gaggle, named for the native Kani household, that killed her brother and two sons.

Families of the useless and lacking congregate every Saturday on the predominant roundabout of the town, the place many buildings are nonetheless war-damaged and burned out, to hunt a fuller investigation and bolder efforts to carry the killers to justice.

Not far-off, staff in white contamination fits are nonetheless uncovering our bodies from Tarhouna’s crimson soil, with 203 our bodies discovered and 52 recognized. City residents have filed 375 lacking individuals experiences to this point.

Usama al-Suwaih, an engineering lecturer, was amongst these protesting. He mentioned the Kaniyat seized his brother from a Tripoli jail in 2013, introduced him again to Tarhouna and summarily executed him in his jail garments.

Two years later the militia fired on his household’s home with a tank, killing his father, he mentioned. His half of the household fled, unable to return till the Kaniyat left final summer time. But in the meantime three of this brothers, two uncles and two cousins have been killed by the group, Suwaih mentioned. One was accused of not providing condolences to the Kaniyat upon a household loss of life.

“What made things worse was the discovery of mass graves in a rubbish dump, which is still operating,” he mentioned.


Since the 2011 NATO-backed rebellion that toppled Muammar Gaddafi, most of Libya has been held by armed teams that management territory, financial establishments and legal rackets, generally switching between the warring sides within the battle.

In latest years, the Kaniyat have been allied to Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), and after Tarhouna – round 65 km (40 miles) southeast of the capital Tripoli – fell in June 2020, they retreated with him again to the east of the nation.

Haftar’s navy defeat set in movement Libya’s newest peace effort, which features a ceasefire alongside an interim unity authorities and a push for nationwide elections in December.

The Government of National Unity in Tripoli is working with the state prosecutor and U.N. investigators, however Tarhouna households say progress in figuring out stays is gradual. Despite arrest warrants, the perpetrators stand past their attain.

Though Kaniyat chief Mohammed al-Kani was shot useless in July in Benghazi by an LNA unit, U.N. investigators have mentioned, most of his comrades stay at massive, and analysts have mentioned they’re within the east beneath LNA safety.

A spokesman for the LNA weren’t instantly obtainable for touch upon the militia’s standing within the east, and no official there has made public touch upon the killing of Kani.

Meanwhile, LNA chief Haftar, who’s seen by some Tarhouna townspeople as finally liable for the later years of the Kaniyat’s bloody reign, has indicated he plans to run for president.

It is a contingency that Abu Kleish can not brook – displaying how a peace course of that has allowed outstanding struggle leaders to retain energy might do little to heal Libya’s divisions.

“If they install Haftar as a president, he will put the entire Libyan people in mass graves,” she mentioned.

Suwaih and another Tarhouna residents concern the concentrate on Haftar will divert consideration from the Kaniyat militia and imply that crimes it dedicated earlier than its alliance with the LNA will likely be brushed apart.

However, he’s excited concerning the prospect of parliamentary elections – nonetheless an unsure prospect as factions wrangle over the principles – as a option to exchange a political class that he says has turned a blind eye to abuse.

“Elections will bring justice to the Tarhouna case,” he mentioned.

Reporting by Reuters Libya newsroom, writing by Angus McDowall, modifying by Mark Heinrich

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Families of victims hold signs as they demand justice for their missing ones and mass graves, in Tarhouna, Libya, Oct. 9, 2021. REUTERS/Ayman Al-Sahili

Families hold pictures of victims as they demand justice for missing loved ones and mass graves in Tarhouna, Libya, Oct. 9, 2021.  REUTERS/Ayman Al-Sahili

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