By Vakkas Dogantekin
ANKARA (AA) - Two Libyan families whose members were extrajudicially killed and tortured by the forces of Khalifa Haftar, who is waging a rebellion against the UN-recognized government Tripoli, took legal action against the warlord in U.S. courts Tuesday.
According to the New York Times, the families are trying to benefit from the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 against Haftar, whose forces tortured members of the al-Suyid and al-Krshiny families at the height of Libyan civil war in 2014.
The families seek justice and restitution from Haftar, and his sons Khalid and Saddam, who have properties in Virginia worth at least $8 million, according to the Times.
"Many other suits filed under the act have failed to gain traction because there are few assets for the court system to seize if a lawsuit succeeds. But Mr. Hifter and his sons own at least 17 properties in Virginia worth a total of at least $8 million, according to the lawsuit," the Times said, using an alternative spelling for Haftar.
"The complicated past of Mr. Hifter, a dual Libyan-American citizen, makes him potentially vulnerable to legal action in American courts," it added.
- Haftar a former CIA asset
Recalling that Haftar was a "former C.I.A. asset" during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s, who was backed by the U.S. to lead the coup against the late Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 1987, the newspaper said he is currently supported by "Russia and much of the Arab world but opposed by Europe and the United States."
"Mr. Hifter’s work for the C.I.A., like almost all spy operations, is draped in mystery. A former aide to Colonel Qaddafi, he turned on the Libyan leader in 1987 and was recruited by American intelligence. A planned coup never came to fruition, and Mr. Hifter and his rebel group were eventually brought to the United States. Mr. Hifter and his sons settled in Northern Virginia, where they eventually bought several properties," it said.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs accuse Haftar of two extrajudicial killings and torture of several family members who were "stripped and then beaten about the head with pipes, cables and a broomstick," as well as subjecting them to electric shocks.
The lawsuit also accuses Haftar and his sons of using the Libyan National Army to wage "an indiscriminate war against the Libyan people."
The report also cited Philippe Nassif, Amnesty International USA’s advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, who said "Haftar’s forces have regularly used abduction, torture and rape to try to exert control over Libya."
- Libya crisis
Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: Haftar in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the UAE, and the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, which enjoys UN and international recognition.
Libya's legitimate government has been under attack by Haftar's forces since last April, and more than 1,000 people have been killed in the violence.
On Jan. 12, the parties announced a cease-fire in response to a joint call by the Turkish and Russian leaders.
On Feb.19, Libya's UN-recognized government said forces loyal to Haftar killed three civilians and injured five in two missile attacks on the Port of Tripoli.
Following the attack, Libya's UN-recognized government late Tuesday announced that it withdrew from the UN-hosted military committee talks in Geneva until a determined stance is embraced against the violations of Haftar’s forces.
On Wednesday, Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj announced the suspension of all talks with Haftar, hinting at a decisive offensive against his forces.