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Elzagally et al. v. Haftar [1:19-cv-853]
al-Suyid et al. v. Hifter [1:20-cv-170]

Haftar originated as a lieutenant under former Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddhafi’s rule. As a trusted military officer, Gaddafi sent Haftar to fight a war in Chad. However, that relationship soon crumbled when Gaddafi renounced affiliation to the Libyan soldiers captured by Chadian troops following the failed 1986-1987 Libyan-Chadian war. Disavowed, the former Gaddafi affiliate now jailed with limited options accepted the CIA’s proposition to train the POWs and lead the prominent military component of the U.S.-funded “National Front for the Salvation of Libya” (FNSL). Leaving Libya for the United States, Haftar settled in northern Virginia for decades where he became a naturalized American citizen.

On April 4, 2019, the dual Libyan-American citizen, General Khalifa Haftar, began his attempt to depose the United Nations-backed Government of the National Accord (GNA) through a violent military assault on Tripoli. In an audio recording released on the Facebook page of the LNA’s media office, Haftar formally ordered his militias to “victorious[ly] march” to GNA-held Tripoli to “shake the lands under the feet of the unjust bunch.” Through the Haftar-ordered indiscriminate attacks, the LNA is suspected of launching rockets against “soft” targets, including civilians, residential neighborhoods, hospitals, and healthcare personnel, disguising his extreme use of forceful violence as counterterrorism measures to protect Libya. The indiscriminate shelling in Tripoli during the April 2019 offensive sets the foundation of the lawsuit against Khalifa Haftar.

On June 26, 2019, lead attorney Faisal Gill, in partnership with the Libyan American Alliance, filed a lawsuit against Khalifa Haftar on behalf of multiple families who had relatives mercilessly killed during the April 2019 offensive. The violent atrocities executed against “soft” targets by Haftar and the LNA represent glaring war crimes and human rights violations. Under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 (TVPA), U.S. citizens and non-citizens are permitted to file civil claims addressing torture and/or extrajudicial killings committed in a foreign country by an individual who acts “under actual or apparent authority, or color of law” of such foreign nation before a U.S. court.

Other lawsuits brought against Haftar have alleged that him and his two sons, Khalid and Saddam, who are both officers within the LNA and are also U.S. citizens, are known to own 17 properties around Virginia, representing at least $8 million in assets. Faisal Gill, the attorney representing the Libyan families, explains that “[u]nder the U.S. Alien Tort Claims Act and Torture Victim Protection Act, there is a legal basis to sue people who commit such acts of atrocities that General Haftar has been committing. The lawsuit against Haftar is for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and gross violations of human rights. The fact that he is a U.S. citizen makes his legal situation even worse.”

“Haftar’s dual Libyan-American citizenship and alleged ties to the CIA are significant to the lawsuit as he is a naturalized American citizen ordering and facilitating atrocities against innocent civilians in an embattled foreign country. We are confident that we will be able to prove Haftar’s individual culpability in the LNA’s documented record of human rights abuses, and that the surviving family members of those killed will receive justice in the United States’ courts,” Gill explains.

In January 2021, and once again in May after the Biden Administration took over, the U.S. State Department notified the court that it would not intervene in the lawsuits against Haftar. Gill considers the U.S. government’s position as a “political victory” for the team at the Libyan American Alliance and “their efforts to bring justice to the victims of Haftar’s aggressions in Libya.”

The Libyan American Alliance continues to play a major, active role in the lawsuits, with our legal and research team’s work collecting records of Haftar’s crimes, atrocities, and human rights abuses. LAA’s President, Dr. Esam Omeish, argues that “warlord Haftar has been the biggest impediment to the peace and prosperity of Libya” who has been inflicting painful suffering upon the people of Libya for far too long. LAA is committed to seeking justice and accountability for Haftar’s war crimes and human rights abuses and is dedicated to advocating for democracy and rule of law in Libya.

In August 2020, after initially not responding to the lawsuits, lawyers representing Haftar argued that, as a head-of-state, he had immunity under U.S. law. The judge did not grant immunity and requested that the U.S. State Department review and address the concern. Further, Haftar is not a legitimate representative of the Libyan government, therefore deeming the argument invalid. LAA’s President, Dr. Esam Omeish, explained that “[a]fter the recent defeats of Haftar in his war in Libya, Haftar realized that he needs an exit strategy and possibly a place to escape to, and that explains why he retained a law firm now after months of not answering the charges leveled against him.”

The Libyan American Alliance (LAA) zealously continues preparing the cases against Haftar, with ongoing coordination with prominent law schools and distinguished international legal institutions in this exceptionally monumental moment in the history of international, American, and humanitarian litigation. Distinguished lawyers passionate about human rights, including the former US Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Stephen Rapp, and former US Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council, Keith Harper, have voiced their interest and support in the lawsuit against Haftar. LAA condemns the violence and terror generated by Haftar and the LNA, and continues to pursue equal justice and accountability for the Libyan people every day.

يواصل التحالف الليبي الأمريكي (LAA) بحماس التحضير للقضية ضد حفتر ، بالتنسيق المستمر مع كليات الحقوق البارزة والمؤسسات القانونية الدولية المتميزة والتي تمثل لحظة مهمة و استثناء في تاريخ التقاضي الدولي والأمريكي. أعرب العديد من المحامون المتميزون في مجال حقوق الإنسان ، بما في ذلك السفير الأمريكي السابق المهتم بقضايا جرائم الحرب ، ستيفن راب ، وكيث هاربر سفير الولايات المتحدة السابق لدى مجلس حقوق الإنسان التابع للأمم المتحدة ، عن اهتمامهم ودعمهم للدعوى المرفوعة ضد حفتر. التحالف اليبي الأمريكي يدين أعمال العنف والإرهاب التي ولدها حفتر وقوات المرتزقة التي يقودها ، ويواصل التحالف السعي لتحقيق العدالة للشعب الليبي.

Accused war criminal and leader of the LNA, Khalifa Haftar. (Courtesy of Reuters)
“Libya’s domestic judicial system is highly dysfunctional and is unable to provide recourse for victims of human rights violations or bring those responsible for these abuses to justice. Perpetrators of serious human rights abuses continue to operate with absolute impunity without fear of accountability.”
- Amnesty International's 2018 Statement for the UNHRC's Interactive Dialogue on the Report on Libya
Protestors in Tripoli. (Courtesy of AFP)