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Robert Cusack

Libyan president: We cannot return to military dictatorship

Serraj said he would do everything he could 'to put these criminals on trial' [Facebook]

Date of publication: 20 March, 2017

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Libyan President Fayez al-Serraj made a television statement denouncing the actions of the rival east Libyan militias in Benghazi, adding that Libyan could not return to strong-man military rule.

President Fayaz al-Serraj has warned against Libya slipping back into the dark days of repression, tyranny and dictatorship in a strongly-worded statement criticising rival forces in east Libya.

The UN-backed Presidential Council also denounced the Libyan National Army (LNA) for digging up and parading the bodies of their enemies in a harshly worded statement on Sunday.

"I want to speak about those who claim to be members of the Libyan army who desecrated graves and dismembered the bodies of the dead in Benghazi," said Serraj in a televised speech.

"These acts do not represent our culture and religion and we will do everything in our power to put these criminals on trial and make an example of them."

Serraj also said Libya should remain under civilian rule and could not return to military rule under one man - referring to Haftar - the Libya Herald reported.

The president's statements were reportedly broadcast after a number of gunmen stormed the president's headquarters at the Abu Sittah Naval Base, demanding the president make a statement in support of Haftar.

The Presidential Council also strongly condemned the LNA for digging up the body of Benghazi Shura Council (BSC) leader, Jalal al-Makhzoum, and the bodies of other fighters and parading them through the streets of Benghazi on Saturday.

"This is a criminal inhuman act committed by fighters identified themselves as the Libyan army forces in Benghazi," the Presidential Council said in a statement.

The Council also criticised General Haftar's call to 'liberate' Tripoli from the west Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA).

"We condemn the statements made by so-called the General Command and its leader Khalifa Haftar about his threats to enter Tripoli by force, which could cause bloodshed in the capital."

The National Commission for Human Rights in Libya (LNHCR) has complained of the LNA's activities, calling them a war crime.

"This act is far from being a little human. It is a war crime that should be punished," the LNCHR said in a statement.

The New Arab has seen footage of what appears to be LNA soldiers strapping the dead bodies onto the front of their vehicles and driving them through the town.

The desecration of dead bodies is a war crime under the International Criminal Court's statute of "committing outrages upon personal dignity". The Cairo Declaration on human rights in Islam also states it "is prohibited to mutilate dead bodies".

Haftar's LNA fought a three-year battle to eradicate any jihadi presence in Benghazi which came to an end on Saturday.

The LNA suffered heavy losses in trying to retake the final areas of city from the Islamist militias.

The final weeks of fighting were concentrated in 12 blocks of flats in the Ganfouda neighbourhood in south-west Benghazi, which was mostly captured by Haftar's forces in January. 

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