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article imageOp-Ed: Libya's western military officials brand Haftar a war criminal

By Ken Hanly     Oct 20, 2016 in Politics
Tripoli - At the Tripoli Radison Blu hotel, military officials and officers from the western region of Libya gathered for their sixth annual meeting. The slogan for this year was "One Libyan Army".
Dignitaries from the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) attended the meeting including Abdelrahman Al-Sweihli, head of the High Council of State. The Council is a mainly advisory body composed of former members of the General National Congress (GNC). There is no mention of the Presidential Guard, the group tasked with defending the GNA, who now support the General National Congress (GNC) attempted coup. The GNC, or Salvation government, is the former government that had been sidelined by the GNA. The High State Council is composed of former members of the GNC.
The defense minister of the GNA Mihdi al-Barghati was also present along with the PM Faiez Serraj. Military officials stressed: “The military institution is neutral toward the tribal, regional and political conflicts in Libya and is absolutely biased to the Libyan people’ choice of peaceful handling of power.” The group is discussing proposals regarding sovereign posts and who should and should not occupy them. These proposals would be presented to the political leadership to select those they deem appropriate.
On Wednesday the group issued a statement that called Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar a war criminal. Haftar commands the Libyan National Army forces associated with the House of Representatives (HoR) government, a rival to the GNA. The group rejected the appropriaton of power by the military in all its forms. They said the choosing of the General Staff leadership and other sovereign appointments should be made on the basis of nationalism and qualifications and should be done within the next 30 days. The group also affirmed that they will do their utmost to train troops and breathe new life into the Libyan army. It was not revealed how many troops the group commands. Tripoli is under the control of various militia it would seem rather than the army. The group said: “All the Libya Army’s belongings, headquarters, and other properties must also be returned to the authority of the military institution, and all the verdicts pertaining to those issues must be delayed until the army leadership is appointed.”
The statement calling Haftar a war criminal was later deleted by the Presidency Council. Although the statement that Haftar was a war criminal was announced on TV, the PC claimed that such a classification of Haftar as a war criminal was just a rumour and incorrect. However, there are copies of the original video of the statement according to a tweet: "Sarraj's PC release a statement after "deleting" the words "Hiftar is a war criminal" Shame we have a video of the Official statement. " The original statement was clearly altered. Probably Serraj does not want to offend Haftar as it might make it more difficult to cut a deal with him to support a new GNA.
The Libya Herald reports further on the row over describing Haftar as a war criminal. The Herald claims that members of the Benghazi Defence Brigades, regarded by Haftar and the Libyan National Army he commands in the east as terrorists, were present. PC member, Fathi Majbri, condemned his colleagues for being present at the meeting and said: “Having learned about the event through the media, I was surprised at the presence of some leaders of what is called the Benghazi Defence Brigades, which the Presidency Council a while ago categorised as a terror group. I demand the head of the PC and its members clarify their position on this event. This, he added, was crucial if he was to continue “on the road of accord”.
The Herald also notes that the final statement said that the group rejected any attempt to take over power through a coup, no doubt a reference to the GNC seizing of the State Council headquarters. The group said the attempted coup would be dealt with without violence using the force of law. It is not clear how this will work. The group will soon have occupied the former Council headquarters for almost a week now with no attempt made to clear them out.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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