Bringing Justice to Benghazi: City of Mines

2017-09-25    |   


On September 25, 2017, the Wahbi al-Bouri Cultural Center in Benghazi’s area 602 screened a documentary about mines. The documentary was prepared by Libyan journalist Khadija al-Amami and a team of media personnel. The screening was organized under the patronage of a number of local and international civil organizations and was attended by members of the Libyan Armed Forces’ Military Engineering Unit.[1][2] The film, and subsequent feedback from the Military Engineering Unit, suggests that Benghazi’s suburbs are safe but the heart of the city is not. Benghazi’s center has a malignant cancer that eats at its body and reaps its citizens. Nothing better demonstrates this than a statement made by the courageous al-Amami, who said that “Benghazi is floating in a sea of ​​mines”.

Criminal Behavior

During their battles in Benghazi, terrorist-designated groups planted booby traps on roads and in buildings and neighborhoods to impede the advancement of security forces towards them. After these groups lost their stronghold on these areas, displaced citizens returning to their homes faced a new threat to their lives – booby traps, including stuffed teddy bears triggered to explode when picked up by a child. Upon their return home, these citizens encountered strange objects in their farms and homes, most of which were hidden underground or in between objects. These mines caused grievous harm and long-term damage, resulting in loss of life and permanent disabilities.

Given where the mines have been planted, it appears they were intended to target civilians. In the Souq al-Hout area, around 7 to 8 mines were found in each house. Military Engineering Unit personnel have not been able to enter residential or service buildings on downtown’s Gamal Abdel Nasser street where minee have been planted.

Mine Victims

Some would say that since mines are a military weapon the landmines are being used to target the military. However, this is not case in Benghazi, where mines are carefully planted in civilians’ houses: in their bedrooms, drawers, washing machines and in children’s stuffed toys. The victims are civilians, including children, women and migrant workers. Information Officer at Al-Jalaa Hospital for Surgery and Accidents, Fadia al-Barghathi, reported that from July 5 to August 11, the hospital received 9 casualties and 10 wounded civilians as a result of landmines located in the areas of al-Sabri and downtown Benghazi. Landmine victims in these areas “were checking their homes and shops. The victims include 2 Egyptian migrant workers”.[3] Al-Barghathi said that a 14-year-old child named Mohammed Taher al-Ramli lost his legs due to a landmine explosion in al-Sabri. He sustained a severe injury while playing football in the area, which resulted in the amputation of both his legs. [4] She added that the hospital also received 4 casualties, including a Chadian worker in the same area, as well as 9 wounded civilians who sustained injuries of various severity from landmines and explosive devices planted during the month of September.[5]

Criminal Provisions In Effect

The rules of what is criminal are determined at the international and national level. It should be noted that Libya has not signed the 1997 Ottawa Convention, an international treaty to ban the use of mines.[6] Pressure must therefore be exerted on the Libyan House of Representatives to sign this treaty. While the provisional constitutional declaration is void of any regulation that can be applied to punish death-mongers who plant mines, the new draft constitution prohibits crimes against humanity, war crimes and terrorism. Article 36 thereof deems these crimes both non-pardonable and imprescriptible. Article 31 of the draft also includes clauses that obligate the state to guarantee blood money when the offender is not known. Article 32 also obligates the state to take the necessary measures to compensate victims of tragedies who are Libyan citizens and legal residents in the country.

In addition, the Penal Code contains many punitive articles that are applicable to mine-planting cases. The act [of planting mines] can be considered an offense of using explosives in the perpetration of a criminal attack (Article 197). The act may also apply to the criminalization stated in Article 202,which criminalizes any person who commits – within the state’s territory – an act aimed at vandalizing, looting, or killing people haphazardly with the intention of jeopardizing the security of the state. If the act does fall under Section 1 of Chapter 2 of the Libyan Penal Code on Crimes and Misdemeanors Against Public Interest, it will not fall outside the purview of criminal cases stated in Section 1 of Chapter 3 of the Penal Code on Crimes Against Individuals. If the act results in the death of a person, it is considered premeditated murder (Article 368), noting the legal development that has taken place with regard to the legislation on punishment and blood money. If the act results in the loss of or permanent damage to one of the senses, permanent loss or impairment of one of the limbs, or permanent disfigurement of the face, it is considered a serious injury-inflicting crime (Article 381). Article 382 stipulates that the penalty shall be doubled if the previously mentioned act is committed using a weapon and with premeditation. In the Special Criminal Regulations section of the Penal Code, it stands to reason that the act is identical to the criminalization stated in Law No. 7 of 1981 on the Possession of Weapons, Ammunition and Explosives, whose articles stipulate punishment for the mere possession thereof. It is also no surprise that Anti-Terrorism Law No. 3 of 2014 counts the planting of mines as a terrorist act in Article 2.

Families of the dead, as well as those injured, can claim compensation in accordance with the provisions of the Libyan Civil Code. Article 166 thereof stipulates that anyone who has caused injury to another is liable for compensation. Article 181 states that anyone who has custody of items that require special care shall be held responsible for the harm caused by such objects, unless it is proved that the harm was caused by an external factor they had no control over.

Steps that Should be Taken

In the face of this tragic reality, the following steps should be taken:

Call upon the United Nations and other international organizations to provide the Military Engineering Unit with protective suits, special devices and allow the import of minesweepers. Currently, the Military Engineering Unit only has the following tools: kitchen knives, pliers and carpet cutters.

Request national civil society organizations to contribute to the development of a reliable database of the casualties and the wounded as a result of mine explosions.

Forcing those responsible for the planting of mines to hand over their maps immediately to the United Nations Support Mission in Libya.

Calling on the legislative authority to take the necessary steps to ratify the Ottawa Convention of 1997 is of great importance.

Calling on the executive authority to take the necessary measures to establish a technical mine-action commission in which the ministries of justice, health and environment are represented. The commission should handle environmental rehabilitation and mine victims. It should establish physical and psychological rehabilitation centers for these victims and ensure prosecution of the perpetrators.

Raise civilian awareness about the risk of entering newly liberated areas without permission from military forces.

Call on voices worldwide to support Benghazi  by using the hashtag #DemineBenghazi.

This article is an edited translation from Arabic


[1] Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace

[2] The National Council on U.S. Libya Relations, chaired by Dr. Hani Shennib

[3] Names of the victims killed by landmines are: Basheer Salem Abdel Razek, Khalid Faraj al-Khafifi, Mohammad Ahmad Abdel Wasee, Osama Akram al-Manfi, Mohammad Taher Mohammad al-Zayidi, Fawzi Abdel Qader al-Manfi, Abdel Salam Salem al-Amari, Abdel Rahman Abdel Aziz al-Awami, and Rajab Omar al-Sharkasi. The wounded victims are: Suhail Mustafa Garibi, Shaban Mohammad al-Farghali, Mahmoud Ramadan al-Farajani, Mohammad Ahmed al-Senousi, Ahmad Belqasem Muftah, Ramzi Abdullah Bin Saud, Ali Abdullah Bin Saud, Salem Awad Hamad, and Mohammad Massoud al-Arfi.

Salem al-Obeidi, Benghazi Bawwabat al-Wasat, August 13, 2017 (

[4] Salem al-Obeidi, Benghazi Bawwabat al-Wasat, September 9, 2017 (

[5] Names of victims killed and wounded by landmines: Mohammad Abdel Qader (50), Musa Ateeq Khalifa, Bubakr Saeed Najm, and Saddam al-Fazzani. The wounded are: Ahmad Mohammad al-Sheibani (16), Mohammad Taher al-Ramli (14), Saleh Mousa al-Aqili (35), Ahmad Saad (45), Nagla Husam (10), Sondus al-Salihin al-Khamsi (3) and her sister Nema (15), Faraj Mohammad Faraj (13) and Amira Saleh Abdel Hamid (16).

Salem al-Obeidi, Benghazi Bawwabat al-Wasat, October 1, 2017 (

[6] The Ottawa Convention, also known as the United Nations Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production or Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, remains one of the most prominent treaties in the United Nations. The treaty obligates countries to remove the threat posed by landmines and their stockpiled anti-personnel mines within four years, and to clear all mine areas under their sovereignty or control within ten years.While 123 countries signed the Convention in 1997, the number of signatory states increased to 162 by the year 2012.

According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, 80% of the world’s countries are members of the Ottawa Convention, while the number of non-members is no more than 34, most notably the United States, Russia and China.

Countries that did not sign the treaty are namely: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, China, Cuba, Egypt, Georgia, India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, North Korea, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Libya, Micronesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tonga, The United Arab Emirates, The United States of America, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

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