Tarhuna Mass Graves

“What we saw in Tarhuna can only be described as a massacre.”
Kamal Abubaker
Head of Libya's General Authority for Searching & Identifying Missing Persons
It is suspected that, for over a decade, the Kaniyat militias terrorized and executed more than one thousand Tarhuna civilians, with approximately 650 of the executions occurring from April 2019 to June 2020 under a partnership with Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA). The Libyan American Alliance supports prospective lawsuits in pursuit of justice for those who disappeared, were arbitrarily detained, tortured, and/or killed extrajudicially in Tarhuna, and buried in mass graves.

After warlord Khalifa Haftar and his militia, the Libyan National Army (LNA), instituted the April 2019 Tripoli offensive, the city of Tarhuna became a base for his operations. al-Kaniyat, a local organized militia originally loyal to the UN-backed Government of the National Accord (GNA), soon defected and aligned itself with Haftar’s forces, and commonly is referred to as the “9th Brigade.” In June 2020, GNA forces regained control of Tarhuna from al-Kaniyat and Haftar-loyal LNA militias. Bombs and landmines were soon found scattered around Tarhuna, however, the most disturbing discovery was the mass graves, which were first identified only one day after the LNA’s withdrawal. By October, more than 20 mass graves had been exhumed in Tarhuna, accounting for over 200 bodies. Many disappearances and executions were not well-recorded by relatives of the victims though, due to the fear ingrained in the Tarhuna population by the militias, therefore, it is impossible to know the true quantity of victims. Human Rights Watch reported at least 338 people were abducted or reported missing during the five-year rule of the pro-Haftar al-Kaniyat militia:

Many victims were bound and showed evidence of being buried alive, including women and children, according to preliminary reports. Field executions and mutilation of corpses were also reported. Survivors of the brutality recall torture, electrocution, and intense beatings by the militia, including executions for refusing to join the group. The violence suspected to be committed by the Kaniyat militia, supported by the LNA, and ordered by Haftar, include enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and torture, and constitutes war crimes and gross crimes against humanity.

Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina reports on the discovered mass graves from Tarhuna, Libya.

TRT World reporters accompany a group of researchers who uncovered a mass grave containing the bodies of women and children in Tarhuna.
Mass graves unearthed in Tarhuna, Libya. (Courtesy of The General Authority for Searching and Identifying Missing Persons)
Personal items retrieved from graves around Tarhuna that authorities show to relatives of missing people to try and identify the recovered bodies. (Courtesy of The Washington Post)
Workers removing an excavated body from a mass grave in Tarhuna. (Courtesy of Anadolu Agency)
Ali Asaid Abu Zweid was kept in this cell, just large enough to accomodate a crouched man, for 45 days. On the counter above them lay mounds of ash from fires al-Kaniyat militia used to turn the cells into ovens. (Courtesy of Daniel Hilton, Middle East Eye)
“Residents reported that [al-Kaniyat] often abducted, detained, tortured, killed, and [caused the] disappearance of people who opposed them or who were suspected of doing so.”
Human Rights Watch