UN Fact-Finding Mission reports “100 more probable mass graves” in Libya’s Tarhouna

A UN-appointed mission to Libya said on Monday there are “probable mass graves” yet to be investigated, possibly as many as 100, in Tarhouna where hundreds of bodies have already been found, Reuters has reported.

The report said that the independent UN Fact-Finding Mission urged the Libyan government to keep searching for mass graves in Tarhouna. It also urges them to establish a special tribunal to prosecute international crimes.

The report to be submitted to the UN Human Rights Council this week details how a militia run by seven brothers – Al-Kaniyat – executed and imprisoned hundreds of people between 2016-2020, sometimes keeping them in tiny oven-like structures called “the boxes” which were set alight during interrogations.

“The evidence of kidnappings, murder and torture in Tarhouna, uncovered by the independent Fact-Finding Mission, represents one of the most egregious examples of rights abuses in the turbulent period since Muammar Gaddafi’s ousting in 2011.” The report says.

Among the victims were the disabled as well as women and children, the 51-page report said, adding that based on the testimonies of residents and two site visits, the mission found “reasonable grounds” that Al-Kaniyat militia committed crimes against humanity and identified four commanders who participated directly in them.

Libyan authorities have recovered 247 bodies in mass and individual grave sites in the Tarhouna area in Western Libya. Many were still handcuffed and blindfolded.

The mission used satellite imagery showing signs of soil disturbances among other evidence to identify three new likely sites, but there could be many more, it said, citing an existing grave known as ‘The Landfill’ where just a tiny fraction of the site has been investigated.

“According to insider knowledge, there might still be up to 100 as of yet undiscovered mass graves,” the report said.

One of the three heads in charge of the 18-person team of the mission, Tracy Robinson, said they did not have the resources or authority to investigate the Tarhouna graves alone.

The report refers to difficulties with cooperation with Libyan authorities in the past. Diplomats and UN sources also told Reuters that Libya had previously expressed reservations about continuing the mission, which expires this month. A resolution is currently before the Geneva-based council to keep investigations going for another nine months.

According to Reuters, a decision is expected this week and, if successful, FFM members said they intend to submit further evidence, a final report and a confidential list of individual suspects to the council next year.


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