Need for Investigation, Accountability
An extrajudicial killing execution is the killing of a person by governmental authorities without the sanction of any judicial proceeding or legal process. They often target political, trade union, dissident, religious and social figures.
The Families’ Accounts
Human Rights Watch researchers interviewed family members of victims of the al-Abyar incident between October 28 and November 13, in person in Tripoli, as well as by phone.
Ayman al-Sahati, who met with Human Rights Watch in Tripoli on October 28, said his brother Ahmed al-Sahati, 42, who was married with four children, was detained late on the night of October 25 by a large group of masked, uniformed men who stormed the family home in al-Laithi district in Benghazi, shouting, “We are looking for Ahmed.”
The family spent the next day looking for him at militia and armed forces camps around Benghazi. Ayman said: The minute my brother Ahmed walked down the stairs to the first floor after hearing the commotion, the uniformed fighters jumped on him and started kicking him and beating him with the butts of their weapons.
My father demanded to know, “Who are you? Where are you taking him? What did he do?” One responded, “We are the army,” another said, “We are from internal security.” The fighters who remained outside of the house were shooting in the air.
We didn’t hear from Ahmed until his photo showed up among the 36 dead in al-Abyar. A relative who went to the hospital to identify him told us he saw a gunshot wound to the head and some torture marks. My brother was a civilian and not a fighter.
He did not participate in the 2011 revolution, or fight in the conflict that started in 2014. In order to be able to live in Benghazi, you have to be a part of them [LNA] – or else.
Human Rights Watch met on October 30 in Tripoli with a relative of another al-Abyar victim, Hatem al-Oreibi, 32, who was married with two children.
The relative, who asked to remain anonymous, said that al-Oreibi was one of two brothers arrested on September 9 at about 4 a.m., at their family home in al-Laithi district in Benghazi. The other brother, Imad al-Oreibi, 39, also married with two children, was still missing.
The family searched for the two brothers unsuccessfully in all known prisons, military camps, and militia headquarters around Benghazi.
Family members made contact with the investigation and arrest apparatus linked to the LNA central command, under the control of Brig. Gen. Aun al-Farjani, and were told that the brothers were in a safe place, that they would be interrogated and then released.
After some weeks, however, al-Farjani stopped responding to inquiries from the family. Hatem’s relative said:
Two family members who went to the morgue to identify Hatem and perform the traditional Muslim cleansing of the body before burial said that Hatem had multiple gunshot wounds to the head and thigh, and that some of his ribs were broken.
They said that his hands were broken and the joints of his arms were dislocated. My two brothers, Hatem, who is now dead, and Imad, who is still missing, were not fighters. No one in our family fights with Hiftar, and now we are accused of being with “Daesh” [Islamic State] and against Hiftar.
In a follow-up call on November 21, the relative said that he had filed a complaint at the General Prosecutor’s office in Tripoli on November 14. He said the family had heard through personal contacts that Imad was at Kweifiyah prison in Benghazi, but that three days after the killing of Hatem and the others in al-Abyar, he was moved to an unknown location.
Given their fear of reprisals, he said, the family decided to flee Benghazi and sell their home there.
Human Rights Watch spoke by phone on October 31 with a relative of another al-Abyar victim, Ali Rheil al-Werfalli. The relative asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. He said a mixed group of LNA members, one member of the Salafist Madkhali militias, and armed men from the neighborhood forced their way into the family home in al-Laithi neighborhood at 3 a.m. on September 7, 2017.
They detained al-Werfalli, an unmarried 29-year-old nurse, who was still wearing his swimming trunks from a visit to the beach earlier in the day. The family heard through personal contacts that he was being held at Kweifiyah Prison in Benghazi but was unable to confirm this. The relative said:
During the arrest, Ali’s mother asked, “Where are you taking him?” One of the armed men responded, “None of your business. If he didn’t do anything, then there is no problem.” The family heard nothing about him until he was found dead in al-Abyar.
Two relatives who went to the hospital in Benghazi said that he was still wearing the same shorts he was arrested in, and that his head was split from the back. They also saw a burn mark on the left shoulder as they prepared the body for burial.
The death certificate stated that the cause of death was a 9mm gunshot wound to the back of the neck, and that the perpetrator was “unknown.” The relatives, who also saw the bodies of other victims, said some appeared to have bite marks from stray dogs.
Ali was not a fighter, but he was against this [LNA] Dignity Operation, and he was religious, which made the armed groups suspicious of him.
The relative also said that members of the Avengers of Blood militia warned the family against holding a traditional three-day mourning ceremony.
Abd al-Salam al-Tarhouni, 37, married with two children, another victim, was seized from his family home in al-Laithi, on September 15 at 3 a.m., said his brother-in-law, Ahmed Khalifa, who spoke with Human Rights Watch by phone on November 13.
He said a masked armed group forcibly entered the family home in Benghazi asking for Abd al-Salam. They identified him and took him to an undisclosed location. Khalifa said:
When the news of the al-Abyar killings became known, Abd al-Salam’s father asked two relatives to go to the morgue to check if Abd al-Salam was among the dead.
The relatives found him there, wearing the same clothes as when detained. They said he looked emaciated. When they prepared him for burial, they saw one gunshot wound to the forehead, one in his leg, and a third in the shoulder that had caused the bones to shatter.
Abd al-Salam was not a fighter. He did not participate in the 2011 uprising or the conflict that started in 2014.
Khalifa said that once the family heard the news, they opened their house to mourners.
Half an hour later, armed gunmen from their neighborhood who were loyal to the LNA descended on the house, which was full of people, including women and children, shooting in the air outside and shouting, “This is a Daesh house, this is the home of a terrorist. You are not allowed to mourn him. We are giving you a few minutes to empty the house.”
The family left the house after this incident and has not returned, fearing reprisals.
On November 13, Human Rights Watch spoke by phone with a relative of two brothers who were among the al-Abyar victims, Naji al-Zayani, 43, and Nasser al-Zayani, 46.
Both were detained on October 25, at 2 a.m., by armed masked men in a convoy of seven or eight cars who broke down the outer door of the family home in al-Muheishi area in Benghazi.
The family had no news of them until they were found among the al-Abyar victims. The relative said:
During the violent arrest, one of the wives of the two men asked the forces where they were taking them. One of them raised his weapon and told her, “We will shoot you.”
They took both men still wearing the sweat suits they slept in. The forces, who refused to identify themselves, took the mobile phones of the two brothers and of one of the wives.
When family members went to the morgue to identify the two men, they were allowed to see only their faces. Family members of another victim told us that the two brothers were arrested by an LNA-linked armed group known as Tareq Bin Ziad.
Neither of the brothers participated in the 2014 conflict. But the family is known for not supporting Hiftar and the LNA.