TRIPOLI: The United Nations (UN) mission in Libya urged an inquiry on Thursday into the deaths of former defense minister Al-Mahdi Al-Barghathi and six others while in the custody of rival authorities in the eastern part of the country.
The UN mission expressed concern over the deaths, citing “allegations of ill-treatment and torture” following their arrest in Benghazi on October 7.
The arrest occurred amid clashes between supporters of Barghathi, a minister in the UN-recognized government in Tripoli, and forces associated with military leader Khalifa Haftar, who commands the rival administration in the east.
The UN mission called on Libyan authorities to conduct an independent and transparent investigation into the deaths and provide information on the fate of those still missing.
Due to limited official information, the exact cause of the deaths remains unclear. The authorities in the east have not commented on the incident, and the location of Barghathi and the other detainees’ confinement in Benghazi is undisclosed.
Barghathi, a former colonel who returned to Benghazi after years in exile, faced arrests following a campaign by pro-Haftar media branding him and his supporters as a “cell of saboteurs.”
Libya has been embroiled in conflict since the NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that led to the ousting and killing of longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
The country is divided between an UN-backed government in Tripoli led by Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah and the eastern-based administration supported by Haftar.