Regional experts say the US court has given Khalifa Haftar a longer leash ahead of the crucial December polls in Libya, delaying the justice to several victims.

A few days ago, a US federal judge Leonie Brinkema pronounced a judgment, ceasing several civil lawsuits against warlord Khalifa Haftar until the end of the December 24 elections in Libya. 

Brinkema's decision was made public by Essam Amish, who heads a think-tank named the Libyan-American coalition.

Amish smells foul play, arguing that the court has come under the influence of Tobruk-based and Aguila Saleh-led House of Representatives (HoR). Saleh has earned the reputation of being Haftar's sidekick. 

Amish said the US trials against Haftar have become political with the intervention of HoR and postponing them until the elections are over has put a psychological strain on the victims, who want the American justice system to resume the prosecution of the warlord. 

Haftar is accused of being involved in human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings and torture committed by his forces during the course of Libya's civil war.

For regional experts, the US is working behind the scenes to normalise Haftar's participation in the December 24 elections as a presidential candidate and the court's decision is in line with that policy rather than supporting a fair and democratic transition in the war-affected country. 

Sami Hamdi, the Managing Director of the International Interest, a global risk and intelligence company, tells TRT World that Washington's priority in Libya is to contain Russia and ending the conflict is important since it has facilitated Moscow's 'expansion' in the region. 

“Whether that end to the conflict comes via a decisive military 'victory' by Haftar, the emergence of a new autocratic regime, or elections is irrelevant. The US looks at Libya through a 'security and stability' lens which is why it has worked with individual militias such as those in Misrata, allowed Haftar's Tripoli offensive in 2019, and appears to be easing the way for Haftar to run in elections,” Hamdi says.

“Washington wants a 'winner' and is ready to work with anyone.”

Abdulkader Assad, the chief editor of The Libya Observer and Libya Alahrar English, believes “the court decision is nothing but another way of the US support for its citizen and long-time CIA asset, Haftar, to keep his chances in running in December elections''. 

On the other hand, warlord Haftar’s son, Saddam visited Israel on Monday, seeking political and military support from Israel. 

Commenting on Saddam's visit, Hamdi thinks “Israel is seen by Arab regimes as 'the key to Congress and the White House'”.

“Such a visit is part of an energetic lobbying effort on the part of Haftar as he prepares for the elections as he seeks to secure Washington's support in the very likely event his opponents choose not to recognize his election 'victory' (if he 'wins'),” Hamdi said. 

Commenting on the same visit, Assad says Haftar’s relationship with Israel is not “something new”.

“Haftar received help from and offered assistance to Mossad before and this makes him reliable for the Israelis. Haftar's Israel move seems a bit of a failing gamble from the start because the Libyan sentiment is a very tough one in rejection of Israel recognition and in recognition of Palestine freedom”.

“The US keeps Haftar's chances alive because nobody is more inclined to serve Washington than its own citizen, but let's not forget that Haftar himself said time and time again that Libya isn't ready for elections and democracy and that he won't accept the results of any elections if his opponents win!” 

Anas el Gomati, who heads the Libyan think tank Sadeq Institute, says; “The US Court decision certainly removes pressure on Haftar, whose defence have argued since 2019 that he is Libya’s head of state and thus immune from prosecution in the US civil court, delaying this decision could very well see him become that.”

But in 2019, the US officials said; "There has been no change to the US position with regard to recognition of the Libyan Government of National Accord."

“We know that Haftar and the US fell out for a while after the 2019 war on Tripoli, because Haftar enlisted the help of the US biggest foe; Russia. Yet, Haftar has always remained an asset for the US in Libya and the fact that they publicly sanctioned Al-Kaniyat militia for Tarhouna mass graves involvement was much easier for them because Haftar had already started to break away from association with the bloodthirsty group,” Assad tells TRT World.

Assad adds: “Khalifa Haftar even staged the assassination of one of the Al-Kani brothers in Benghazi, who was supposed to be under Haftar's protection who escaped Tarhouna when the regular Libyan Army forces liberated it in June 2020”. 

“The US has never been shy of being associated with Haftar and in fact, it has always included him in the political process even though he is implicated in UN reports as an obstructionist, a spoiler, and a war criminal.”

Source: TRT World