The United Nations (UN)’s mission to Libya has called for an investigation of the “horrible reports” that several mass graves have been found in the North African country.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) on Thursday expressed its “deep concern” about the “very horrible reports about the discovery of several mass graves, most of them in Tarhuna.”
The strategic town of Tarhuna, to the southeast of the capital, Tripoli, had for 14 months been the last major stronghold of Libyan rebels under the command of strongman Khalifa Haftar. Earlier this month, Libyan government forces retook control of the city.
UNSMIL said last Sunday that it had received “deeply disturbing” reports of deaths, destruction, and looting from the areas recently recaptured.
On Thursday, UNSMIL said that authorities “must conduct a prompt, transparent and effective investigation into reports of extrajudicial killings.”
It also welcomed a decision by Libya’s Ministry of Justice to form an investigation committee to protect mass grave sites.
The Libyan Justice Ministry has called on the committee “to identify victims and causes of death and return the bodies to the families of the dead.”
Mass graves were also found in the cities of Souq al-Khomis and al-Mashrou.
Haftar’s rebel forces — backed by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — have been fighting to overtake Tripoli and unseat the UN-recognized government there for over a year.
The Libyan government receives backing from Turkey.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu will meet their Turkish counterparts, Mevlut Cavusoglu and Hulusi Akar, in Istanbul on Sunday to discuss a potential ceasefire in Libya.
Separately, the president of Algeria, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, has offered to mediate and help end the Libyan conflict.
Libya plunged into chaos in 2011 when a popular uprising backed by a NATO intervention led to the ouster of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.