Armed groups loyal to the self-styled army in eastern Libyan city of Benghazi are preventing thousands of internally displaced families from returning to their homes in the city, Human Rights Watch said in a report Thursday.
The report explained that the armed groups, which are mostly led or loyal to warlord Khalifa Haftar, accuse the families of terrorism or supporting terrorism.
"An estimated 13,000 families have fled Benghazi for elsewhere in Libya or abroad since Haftar kicked off his Dignity Operation in the city." The report indicates.
It also adds that displaced people interviewed by Human Rights Watch said "Libyan army-linked" groups seized their property and tortured, forcibly disappeared, and arrested family members who remained in the city.
"If proven such attacks on civilians would amount to violations of the laws of war. If committed with criminal intent, they would be war crimes." Human Rights Watch added.
“General Hifter needs to act resolutely to end the attacks on civilians in Benghazi,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Goldstein added that senior "LNA commanders" who have stood by since 2014 while their forces torture and disappear people and plunder their property "can and should be held to account by local or international courts.”
Human Rights Watch's report also touched upon lawlessness in Libya saying "As a result of armed conflicts in the country and political divisions, central authority collapsed and subsequently three competing governments emerged, now reduced to two.