Geneva, April 9 (IANS) The UN Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday warned that attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in Libya could amount to war crimes.
In a statement issued in here, Bachelet said all parties to the conflict must make every effort to protect civilians. She urged protagonists to the conflict in Libya to take measures to ensure civilians do not – once again – bear the brunt of the fighting.
The BBC, citing the World Health Organization, reported that 47 people, including civilians have been killed over the past three days as rebel forces seek to seize the Libyan capital Tripoli. At least 181 people were said to have been injured in recent clashes.
Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who leads the Libyan National Army from a stronghold in the east, declared an offensive to take control of Tripoli from Libya’s UN-backed government last week.
Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj, the head of the Government of National Accord, has accused him of attempting to carry out a coup.
According to the UN, at least 2,800 people have so far fled fighting around Tripoli.
“The people of Libya have long been caught between numerous warring parties, with some of the most vulnerable suffering some of the gravest violations of their human rights,” UN Rights Commissioner Bachelet said.
“The attack near the Mitiga Airport (on Monday) that left many civilians in Tripoli stranded brought into stark focus the imperative for all parties to respect international humanitarian law, and to take all possible measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and prisons.”
Much of the international community, including the US, has called for a ceasefire. The US military was among those to withdraw their supporting forces based in the country, blaming the “complex and unpredictable” situation and “increased unrest” on the ground.
The UN was also due to pull out non-essential staff.
UN-backed talks between the rival governments had been scheduled for April 14-16 to discuss a roadmap for new elections, but it is now unclear if these will still take place.