Haftar can lose war crimes trial in US if fails to notify court in one month
İlker Sezer – ISTANBUL
The east Libya-based military commander Khalifa Haftar was accused in a multimillion-dollar civil lawsuit of war crimes by Libyan family members who say their loved ones were killed when forces controlled by Haftar conducted bombings in civilian neighborhoods.
Faisal Gill, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the families, told daily Hürriyet that a default judgment motion will be filed and if Haftar fails to notify the court in one month, he will automatically be declared the losing party.
The incident took place when four Libyan families filed a lawsuit on June 26 in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria. The lawsuit seeks $125 million in damages.
Speaking to daily Hürriyet, Gill said that a default judgment motion will be filed because Haftar has not been present during the lawsuit process.
If Haftar does not respond to the motion, he will be declared the losing side, the lawyer said. He also added that in such a case, Hafter’s assets in the U.S. can be confiscated to compensate for the damages.
But there is a possibility that Haftar has transferred his “millions of dollars of assets” to different persons and this can be hard to track down, according to Gill. He said that Haftar has two sons known to be residents of the U.S. and their assets should be inspected.
The lawsuit is currently a civil case, yet the lawyer said he hopes this gets transformed into a criminal suit because of Haftar’s crimes in Libya. If this is the case, an arrest warrant can be issued for Haftar in the U.S.
Msaddek Tunalli was killed on April 4 outside Tripoli during an offensive by Haftar’s troops as they tried to capture the city. He was trapped in a shelling. His death is explicitly cited in the lawsuit along with Mudisa Sasi Abu Gasiah, who was killed on April 16 when a missile was launched in Tripoli’s Hay Alintassar.
Even though the region was packed with civilians, intense attacks were launched. The lawsuit also cites Ayman al-Harramah, a doctor providing medical treatment to civilians, who was killed by the armed forces.
Haftar was once a lieutenant to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. But he defected during the 1980s and spent many years living in northern Virginia, where he became a U.S. citizen and is widely believed to have worked with the CIA during his time in exile.
Since 2015, war-torn Libya has been divided between two governments, one in the east and the other in the west, the Government of National Accord (GNA) of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, based in Tripoli and supported by the United Nations, as well as Italy, Turkey and Qatar.
In April, Haftar’s east-based army, which is backed by France, Russia and key Arab countries, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, launched its push on the capital.
After nearly eight months of fighting, Haftar’s forces have not taken Tripoli but have been held off on the city’s southern edges, instead laying siege on the Libyan capital. The stalemated fighting has so far left more than 1,000 people dead, mostly combatants. Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced.
Haftar’s supporters say they have restored security and civil order in the eastern part of the country and insist the LNA is not seeking to rule the country, but to rebuild the state and create conditions for elected government.