The Libyan American Alliance voices its concern over the United States Institute of Peace’s (USIP) decision to host Dr. Aref Ali Nayed given media reports alleging a link between Dr. Nayed and the al-Kaniyat militia responsible for the mass graves discovered in Tarhuna.[Link to event info page: https://www.usip.org/events/libyan-general-elections-2021-discussion-series-libyan-leaders-1] Antithetical to USIP’s objectives of reducing and resolving violent conflicts in fragile states, Dr. Nayed is accused of engaging in activities that undermine efforts of advancing peace and stability in Libya, calling into question both his eligibility to accurately represent the interests of the Libyan people as well as his credibility as a consensus choice who will be able to unite all Libyans.TARHUNA MASS GRAVES
Since being first discovered in June 2020, more than ten mass graves have been found in the city of Tarhuna. Although many remain unidentified, the bodies are believed to be of those forcibly abducted and “disappeared” between 2014 to 2020 by a local clan militia known as al-Kani (or al-Kaniyat) widely known to have de facto control of the city of Tarhuna. As a brutal social management tool and a means of consolidating power, al-Kani militia members led by Mohamed al-Kani and his two brothers have been accused of abducting, killing, “disappearing” and displacing hundreds of residents as part of their ruthless campaign for control.
The actions of the al-Kani militia entail crimes against humanity as many cases involve enforced disappearances per the definition of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance of the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The mass scale of the murder has raised questions as to whether or not the acts meet the definition of “genocide” under the definition of the UN’s Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect.For more information about the discoveries of mass graves in Tarhuna, links to media can be found here:Human Rights Watch, “Libya: Militia Terrorized Town, Leaving Mass Graves: Hundreds in Tarhouna Reported Missing From 2014 to 2020,” HRW, 7 January 2021.Paget, Sharif, Jomana Karadsheh and Chandler Thornton, “UN says at least eight mass graves have been reported found in Libya,” CNN, 12 June 2020.Raghavan, Sudarsan, “Mass murder and the sin of silence,” The Washington Post, 8 May 2021. United Nations Support Mission in Libya, “Report of the Secretary General,” United Nations Security Council, 25 August 2020.UN Support Mission in Libya, “Report of the Secretary General,” UN Security Council, 19 January 2021.Walsh, Declan, “U.N. Expresses Horror at Mass Graves in Libya,” The New York Times, 13 June 2020.Whewell, Tim, “How six brothers – and their lions – terrorised a Libyan town,” BBC, 7 January 2021.CONNECTION BETWEEN NAYED AND AL-KANI
In a thread posted to Twitter on 10 June 2020 by Wolfram Lacher, scholar and Senior Associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), a phone believed to have belonged to Mohamed al-Kani was discovered in Tarhuna by GNA-aligned forces. Leaked voice messages from this phone have alleged coordination between Kani and a Libyan politician, Dr. Aref Nayed. As stated by Lacher, “The messages are remarkable less for their content than for their suggestion of direct coordination between Nayed – who likes to present himself as a consensus figure to Western diplomats – and the head of a gang that has killed hundreds in cold blood in Tarhuna in recent years.”In the subject voice recording posted to Telegram on October 24th, the audio appears to indicate not only Dr. Nayed’s close connection to the head of the al-Kaniyat militia, but it also sounds as if Dr. Nayed is urging Kani to incite violence against anyone who resists the militia’s control.
In addition to prompting the al-Kaniyat militia to use violent tactics against resistance, Dr. Nayed encourages Haj (“uncle”) Kani to support General Khalifa Hifter, commander of the Libyan National Army, in his assault on Tripoli and requests Kani to rally support against the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord. Exchanging warm words of friendship with Mohamed al-Kani, the individual designated pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act terrorist and sanctioned by the U.S. government for his role in grave breaches of human rights, is cause for concern.DR. NAYED’S CONTROVERSIAL STATEMENTS
This is not the first controversial statement made by Dr. Nayed. In fact, in Dr. Nayed’s self-published transcript from an interview on 14 July 2019, Dr. Nayed defended the Libyan National Army’s offensive on the GNA-controlled capital of Tripoli saying that “… the Libyan National Army is restoring the Libyan state to what it should be, and getting rid of the parasites that have kidnapped the capabilities of the Libyan people throughout these years” (1) and that “ …the Libyan Army is offering a military solution that will restore the democratic path to what it should have been.” (3)The reality of this offensive, however, contradicts Dr. Nayed’s statement as the Libyan National Army is accused of launching rockets and indiscriminate attacks against “soft targets”
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