Why Did US Blacklist Libyan Militia, Leader After Russia Stopped UN Sanctions? – OpEd


The United States unilaterally blacklisted Libya’s Kaniyat militia and its leader Mohamed al-Kani. The Kaniyat militia have tortured and killed civilians during a cruel campaign of oppression in Libya, despite Russia last week preventing a U.N. Security Council committee from imposing sanctions over human rights abuses by the group.

The United States and Germany proposed that the U.N. Security Council’s 15-member Libya sanctions committee impose an asset freeze and travel ban on Kaniyat militia and al-Kani. This will be imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the U.S. government to target human rights violators worldwide by freezing assets and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them.

On the other hand, Russia said it could not approve the sanctions because it wanted to see more evidence first that they had killed civilians, and give evidence about what happened in the city 12 bodies from four unmarked graves in Tarhouna, adding to the scores of corpses already discovered since June, as we know Government of National Accord (GNA), had for years been controlled by the Kaniyat militia run by the local Kani family, which fought alongside Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).

In addition, the United Nations Libya envoy pressed the U.N. Security Council to blacklist anyone who obstructs peace efforts after the warring parties agreed on a ceasefire and Libyan participants in political talks set a date for elections.

The council has tools at its disposal including preventing obstructionists from jeopardizing this rare opportunity to restore peace in Libya. Last month the two sides in the country’s war – the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) – agreed with a ceasefire and Libyan participants in political talks last week set Dec. 24, 2021, as the date for elections.

The United States and Germany wrote in their sanctions proposal that international human rights groups, known as UNSMIL, has “received reports of hundreds of human rights abuses perpetrated by the al-Kaniyat militia against private individuals, state officials, captured fighters, and civil society activists in Tarhouna, under Mohammed al-Kani’s leadership, has reportedly carried out enforced disappearances, torture, and killings at Tarhouna Prison conducted on September 13, 2019 the proposal read. The United States investigated the corruption issues allegations undoubtedly threaten the integrity of the Libyan political situation. Additionally, the failure to reveal the results of the investigation around these allegations and excluding those involved in the bribery will undermine the political situation process in its entirety.

This will put the credibility of this political situation or any future stability in jeopardy with potentially dire consequences on future general elections as well as attaining peace and stability in the country. The United Nations has a moral and ethical obligation to continue the elections and announce the results. Recommendations of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya:

  • Continue the investigation and announce the mission and to take all measures to help reveal the truth.
  • Declare the results of the investigation publicly announce the members of the dialogue involved in acts of corruption and exclude them from the remaining dialogue sessions.
  • Inform the public about the investigation results.
  • Prevent anyone who involved in corruption issues to running for sovereign positions, whether in the Presidential Council or the government.

Recommendations of the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Libya:

  • Take the necessary legal measures and to start an urgent criminal investigation into the incident.
  • Refer those involved to the national justice system in accordance with the law.
  • Publicly announce the results of the investigation and the procedures that will follow.

We can see many Libyans remain skeptical that the peacemaking efforts will end nearly a decade of chaos and bloodshed following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, war never ends.

Prof. Miral Sabry AlAshry

Prof. Miral Sabry AlAshry is Co-lead for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at the Centre for Freedom of the Media, the Department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield.

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