War crimes suits against Libya's Haftar dismissed

A US judge on April 12 dismissed a group of civil lawsuits accusing Libyan military leader Khalifa Haftar of war crimes. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she had no jurisdiction to preside over a case concerning crimes committed in Libya—even though Haftar has US citizenship and lived for more than 20 years in the DC suburbs of northern Virginia. The ruling came as a reversal in the case; in 2022, Brinkema had entered a default judgment against Haftar after he refused to sit for scheduled depositions. Haftar subsequently sent lawyers to argue on his behalf, and the default judgment was put off. 

In the suits, first filed in 2019 under the Torture Victim Protection Act, the plaintiffs charged that family members were killed in bombardments conducted by Haftar's forces on civilian areas of Tripoli that year. They contended that these deaths constituted extrajudicial killings, wich are covered by the TVPA. Plaintiffs noted that Haftar's extensive properties in Virginia could have been used to compensate the survivors. The head of the Libyan-American Alliance, Issam Omeish, expressed his regret over the court's decision, calling it a setback in the groups' work seeking justice and accountability for rights abuses in Libya's civil war.

Once a lieutenant to long-ruling dictator Muammar Qaddafi, Haftar defected to the US in the 1980s. He is widely believed to have worked with the CIA during his time in exile.

He returned to Libya in 2011 to support anti-Qaddafi forces in that year's revolution During the country's subsequent civil war, he led the self-declared Libyan National Army, which continues to control much of the eastern half of Libya, with support from countries including Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. (MEMO, MEE, AP, Libya Observer)

See our last report on Libya's ongoing political crisis.