By Libya Herald reporters.
Tunis, 15 August 2017:
The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has issued a warrant for the arrest for war crimes of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Saiqa Special Forces officer Mahmoud Warfali.
Bensouda said Warfali should be tried “ for his direct participation in seven separate rounds of executions, in which a total of 33 people were murdered in cold blood in Benghazi or surrounding areas.”
She added: “ Such egregious crimes, including the cruel and dehumanising manner by which they were perpetrated against helpless victims, must be stopped. Accountability for atrocity crimes is better suited to advance the ends of peace and stability, not more violence”.
Five of the seven executions in which Warfali is alleged to have appeared have been posted on the internet prompting widespread disgust.
The most recent from late July, seemed to show Warfali and others executing 20 captives who were hooded, dressed in orange jumpsuits and kneeling on the sand.
In the the footage a man resembling Warfali orders five of his men to shoot 18 of the prisoners before he and two other gunmen shoot the remaining three in the back of the head. Warfali is allegedly identifiable because he uses his dominant left-hand, which is his dominant hand, to fire his pistol.
In early June, Warfali is alleged to have appeared in another execution video, this time the killing of four masked men. Though the clip was undated, the man refers to Ramadan and claims scriptural justification for killing the men. He said he was honoured to kill these terrorists and purify the world of their evil in this holy month.
Another video released a month earlier shows the same man executing a captured militant suspect again after exhortation while holding up the Koran.
In March of this year, the first clip of the same individual executing three men was widely circulated. In this footage three kneeling men are murdered with seven shots from a machine pistol. The killer was identified as Warfali because of a bandage on his right arm. Warfali had been injured in that arm when he targeted by a car bomb in February.
This May, Warfali offered his resignation as a Saiqa Special Forces captain. However, it was rejected by the unit’s commander Wanis Bukhamada who instead promoted him to major.
There has been international outcry since the execution videos emerged. Human Rights Watch have demanded investigations. After the most recent video, its deputy directorEric Goldstein said, “This latest mass execution, if confirmed, would be one more in a string of atrocities”.
In July, the UN called for Warfali’s suspension from the LNA’s Saiqa unit while the most recent video was being investigated. In response, LNA repeated its vow to initiate an investigation into any alleged war crimes but has since remained silent.
Bensouda today admitted that it would be a “challenge” for the ICC to get Warfali into its custody. Pointing out that Warfali was innocent until charges against him were proven, she said that the Libyan authorities had the primary responsibility to arrest and hand him over.
“I call upon them to do so immediately” she said, “so that the judges of the Court can independently and impartially assess the evidence to determine his guilt or innocence.
Tonight ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdullah responded to a question from the BBC about how easy it might be to gain custody of Warfali. He said that the court had to go through the Libyan authorities.
“Of course you might say that today, the suspect is not within the realms of this authority, but we know that these situations change over time and suspects change their locations and residency”. They might go to another country said Abdullah, in which case the court would ask for the suspect to be arrested and handed over. He added: “There is no statute of limitations for the ICC arrest warrants”.