A Libyan commander wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges announced he has handed himself in to the allied forces of strongman Khalifa Haftar.
Mahmoud al-Werfalli – who commands the Benghazi-based Al-Saiqa Brigade loyal to Haftar – has been under an arrest warrant for the past six months over the cold-blooded executions of at least 33 people in 2016 and 2017.
Calls for Werfalli to face justice have grown since he was accused of personally shooting dead some 10 jihadist prisoners last month at the scene of a deadly bomb attack on a mosque in Benghazi, Libya’s second city.
In a video posted on Facebook overnight on Tuesday to Wednesday, the commander announced “I am handing myself in to military police” under the command of Haftar, whose forces dominate the east of the country.
The claim could not be independently verified.
In the footage Werfalli insisted on his “innocence” and justified the executions as “sentences” against jihadist “killers”.
This is not the first time that Werfalli has reportedly been held by Haftar’s forces.
When his arrest warrant was issued in August 2017 Haftar’s forces insisted he was in their custody and would face a military trial.
The United Nations in late January reiterated its demand for “the handing over of Mahmoud al-Werfalli immediately to the ICC in The Hague” after the latest reported killings in Benghazi.
The UN said it had documented “at least five similar cases, in 2017 alone, carried out or ordered by Werfalli”.
Libya has been mired in chaos and violence since longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.
A UN-backed unity government based in the capital Tripoli has struggled to assert its authority outside western Libya. Haftar supports a rival administration based in the east.
The UN is currently trying to negotiate an end to the current political turmoil by agreeing parliamentary and presidential elections later this year, but there is deep scepticism over whether they will take place.