Experts argue Haftar's alleged war crimes should have been reported by the international media and other human rights organisations when the warlord was taking town after town.

The Libyan conflict turned murky with warlord Khalifa Haftar's reckless pursuit for power, a move that is directly linked to the huge spike in the civilian death toll in 2019, according to the New America Foundation's newest study. 

The report underlines that forces working with Haftar are responsible for the overwhelming majority of non-combatant deaths during the period. 

First obtained by the Washington Post, the report says that "civilian harm from airpower-dominated international military actions”, at least 429 of the estimated minimum of 727 civilian deaths since 2012, or about 60 percent, are believed to have taken place since Haftar's offensive began. 

The recent UN report also blamed Haftar and his militias for being responsible for 81 percent of civilian casualties, while documenting at least 64 noncombatant deaths in the first three months of this year.

Since the warlord enjoys the support of several countries, including the UAE, France and Russia, international law experts argue that the countries funding and supporting Haftar might also bear responsibility for those deaths. 

According to Berdal Aral, an international law expert and professor at Istanbul Medeniyet University, Haftar is not even a legitimate actor in the eyes of the international community. 

"The countries supporting Haftar are equally responsible for committing crimes against humanity by supporting a killer," Aral told TRT World. "They violate international law and international agreements on civilian rights".

Aral described Haftar as a self-styled militia commander with no international recognition, and further, that any country supporting him should distance itself and shield themselves from committing crimes against humanity.

Aral suggests that since Haftar's supporters - mainly France and Russia - have vetoed any potential future sanctions on him in the UN security council, the matter should be taken up by the UN general assembly under the scheme of ‘Uniting for Peace’.

Since the beginning of Haftar's involvement in the Libyan conflict, says Aral, three permanent members of the UN security council, the UK, US and China, have remained tightlipped on Haftar's military campaigns that have challenged Libya's UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

“Haftar should have been condemned officially and the call of ending foreign support to him should have been taken a long time ago," he adds. 

Last week, the US media reported that Russia had sent more than fourteen fighter jets to the so-called LNA air base which is controlled by forces loyal to Haftar. Earlier this week, the UN Support Mission in Libya announced that all parties in Libya have agreed on a ceasefire and to resume talks.

For Talha Kose, who is the chair and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Turkey's Ibn Haldun University, Haftar's war crimes are well-known internationally, and tough sanctions should have been imposed by the worldwide community to limit his military advance.

"The steps taken by the UN to include Haftar in the peace process is suggestive of a dilemma in its Libya policy," says Kose. "If we talk about the international law, Haftar should have no place in the peace process".

Kose admits that countries like the UK could bring in a draft law at the UN to address the growing civilian death tolls in Libya.  

“We’ve seen what happened in Syria, the international community remained silent over the Syrian Regime’s brutal attacks on civilians."

Kose argues that the only thing that can compel France and other supporters of Haftar to take a step back, is the constant international pressure along with the help of a fair and balanced media.

"The recent reports holding Haftar and his backers accountable are important but as long as countries like the US and the UK remain silent, nothing is going to change," Kose said.

Source: TRT World