Human Rights Watch calls for allowing trapped civilians to leave Libya's Derna

Human Rights Watch calls for allowing trapped civilians to leave Libya's Derna

February 23, 2019 - 19:44
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Written By: AbdulkaderAssad

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Friday for the immediate allowance of aid and medical workers into Derna to help the trapped civilians in the Old City neighborhood, calling on the forces under Khalifa Haftar's command to allow the civilians to leave the city as they have been trapped there within the past two weeks without access to food, water, or medical care.

“The LNA should investigate allegations of abuse by its members and hold those responsible accountable. It should also ensure safe conditions for Derna residents displaced by the fighting to return home.” Said Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson.

HRW also called on Haftar's forces to disclose immediately the names of anyone they have detained during operations to take the city, who may number in the hundreds, according to United Nations reporting and one unconfirmed and partial list of names obtained by Human Rights Watch.

"They should indicate the location of all detainees and the legal basis for detaining them and ensure them due process before a judge as quickly as possible." It indicated.

HRW adds that it’s unclear how many local fighters and civilians remain inside the Old City of Derna as Haftar's forces deployed there have severely restricted movement of people and goods, preventing the delivery of food, water, fuel, and medical care to those inside, according to sources and UN reporting.

The report reminds the forces under Haftar's command that the laws of war require all parties to a conflict to do the utmost possible to minimize the incidental loss of civilian life and damage to civilian objects, to facilitate rapid and unimpeded humanitarian relief for civilians in need, and to protect humanitarian workers from attack, harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary detention.

"The laws of war do not prohibit sieges of enemy forces. However, starving civilians as a method of warfare is a war crime. All parties to a conflict should facilitate the safe movement of civilians, in particular to escape a zone of fighting or a siege." It further adds.

HRW explains that under the laws of war, Haftar's forces must take all steps to find, identify, and dispose of the dead with respect, and to mark any grave, or ensure that a competent second party does so, saying they should ensure that remains are returned to families if possible and requested, and that personal effects are always returned.

Forces under Haftar's command tightened rip and seized full control of Derna days ago after months of clashes with Derna Protection Force fighters, leaving behind scores of deaths and injuries as well as a massive material damage to the properties and the infrastructure of the city.