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article imageOp-Ed: Haftar's forces accused of kidnapping and torture in Libya

By Ken Hanly     Mar 20, 2016 in World
Tobruk - General Khalifa Haftar's forces are claimed to be behind some kidnappings and torture in eastern Libya. Haftar is commander in chief of the Libyan National Army (LNA) associated with the internationally recognized House of Representatives (HoR).
The Libya Observer, a source often favorable to the rival General National Congress (GNC), reports that rescued prisoner Othman Bu Khattabia, an elder from the Obidat tribe, claimed: "They mistreated me and beaten me up, I was psychologically destroyed...They are militias from the so-called the General Command in Al-Marij and the so-called Haftar..All the abducted citizens in Tobruk are in so-called Haftar's prisons, the so-called army prisons."
Khattabia was abducted from central Tobruk two weeks ago by an armed group loyal to Haftar. Khattabia opposes Haftar's Operation Dignity launched in May of 2014 to rid Libya of all Islamists, including those associated with the GNA and allied militias.The ongoing operation to a considerable degree started the ongoing conflict between rival governments, and included burning the parliament in Tripoli. Obidat's armed tribesmen managed to find out that Khattabia was detained in Suluq, about 53 kilometers southeast of Benghazi, and were able to set him free. Khattabia said his captors said they were from the Libyan Army and accused him of collaborating with Ibrahim Jodran, the head of the militia guarding petroleum facilities. Jodran is a supporter of the GNA and a foe of Haftar. Khattabia said his tribe would take action against Haftar's militias. He also claimed Haftar was behind the disappearance of citizens and activists in Benghazi.
Others have complained of the actions of Haftar's forces. Elders and notables in the city of Tobruk where the HoR is located, have also accused Haftar of being responsible for the disappearance of activists and citizens in that city. The group claimed that the kidnappers were receiving support from officials and granted immunity by claiming to be from the army. The kidnappers use false accusations, that victims are sleeper cells, as justification for kidnapping them. In a statement, the elders claim that the kidnappers are under the command of the army and from Al Marj city. Al Marj is where Haftar has his headquarters. The group claimed that those kidnapped are there in illegal detention centers. The group called on Haftar to intervene immediately and release those kidnapped. If this were not done, the group would re-consider recognition of the Libyan National Army (LNA). A number of activists have been abducted for anti-Dignity Operation views. Ahmed Fayad was abducted in the city center early in the week. His fate is not known. Four other activists have been abducted recently.
These events provide some confirmation of the charges of former spokesperson of Operation Dignity, Mohammed Al-Hijazi who defected from the organization in January. Al-Hijazi claimed Operation Dignity had veered off course and the Haftar was a narcissistic dictator who was guilty of corruption and bloodshed: "We cannot be silent any more about his killings, kidnappings, destruction, and forced disappearance." He also accused him of plotting with Kobler, the head of the UNSMIL and of being a foreign agent. He claimed that Kobler was transferring military funds to his sons in Egypt, Tunisia, and Jordan.
Haftar seems still to enjoy considerable popularity especially since recent military advances in Benghazi. He has the support of Egypt, the UAE, and the Arab League. Recently, President El-Sisi of Egypt said that now was not the time for foreign intervention in Libya: “If we give arms and support to the Libyan National Army, it could do a much better job than anyone else, better than any external intervention which could risk putting us in a situation that could get out of hand and provoke uncontrollable developments. " To arm Haftar would be simply to support Operation Dignity and the continuation of the civil war in Libya. It would ensure the breakdown of the GNA as GNC members would revolt. According to one section 8 in additional provisions of the Libyan Political Agreement, the Presidency Council of the GNA took on the role of commander-in-chief of the Libyan Army when the LPA was signed on December 17th. Another section 8 in the main text claims that the Council takes on this role when the GNA is activated upon a vote of confidence in the HoR. The GNA has been activated anyway. A letter signed by an alleged majority of the GNA supporting the GNA was regarded as a green light to activate and move to Tripoli. Almost everyone ignores the issue of section 8 and Haftar's continuation of his role in violation of two sections of the LPA.
Haftar appears not to want the GNA active in case Section 8 is enforced. The EU is sanctioning the president of the HoR's Ageela Salah for not achieving a vote of confidence in the GNA. The HoR is the legislative body of the GNA. Will the HoR move to Tripoli along with its sanctioned president Salah?
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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