As It Happens

Canadian man's deceased mother shown in grisly video of alleged Libyan war crimes

A BBC Arabic investigation has uncovered dozens of videos on Facebook and YouTube that depict gruesome violence in Libya — including one that shows the desecration of a Canadian man's dead mother.

Ali Hamza of Mississauga, Ont., is seeking justice for the deaths of his mother and siblings in Benghazi

Ali Hamza of Mississauga, Ont., wants the Canadian government to pursue justice against those responsible for the deaths of his mother and siblings in Libya. (Submitted by Ali Hamza)
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A BBC Arabic investigation has uncovered dozens of videos on Facebook and YouTube that depict gruesome violence in Libya — including one that shows the desecration of a Canadian man's dead mother.

Now Ali Hamza of Mississauga, Ont., is hoping the discovery will aid him in his quest to pursue justice against those he holds responsible for her death and the deaths of his four siblings.

"It's the public now who are seeing it. It's the world who are seeing it," Hamza told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"We have been suffering alone for a very long time."

Hamza left Libya for Canada more than three decades ago, but his mother and siblings remained behind.

They lived in the militant-controlled Benghazi neighbourhood of Ganfouda, which came under siege in 2017 by the Libyan National Army (LNA) — one of several factions vying for control of the country after the 2011 death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Hamza's mother Aalya Faleh Al-Derbali, 75, was killed in the besieged Benghazi city of Ganfouda. (Submitted by Ali Hamza)

In February 2017, Hamza sold his SUV and travelled to Turkey with his wife and children to partner with NGOs trying to get food, water and medicine to the civilians trapped inside Ganfouda.

But the precarious security situation kept the aid shipment on the ground. Soon after, he learned that his mother had been killed along with his sisters Faiza and Fahira, and his brothers Ibrahim and Mahmoud.

'We're living through it," he said. "We're in the pursuit of justice to protect life and to honour them."

Allegations of war crimes 

Human Rights Watch and others called on LNA leader Khalifa Haftar to investigation allegations that those under his command have committed war crimes in the quest to control Libya, including attacks against civilians, summary executions, and the desecration of corpses.

It was the latter that BBC turned up evidence of online.

Hamza's brothers Ibrahim Abdalla Hamza Al-Jarari, 43, left, and Mahmoud (Naser) Abdalla Hamza Al-Jarari, 48, were also killed in Ganfouda. (Submitted by Ali Hamza)

The public broadcaster says it unearthed more than 100 videos that appear show members of the LNA mutilating and desecrating the bodies of fighters and civilians, alike.

Desecrating the bodies of enemy combatants is considered a war crime under international law.

One video shows a man who the BBC identifies as Zakaria Ferkash — a member of Hatar's elite special forces — trampling over the bodies of civilians in the streets of Ganfouda.

One of those bodies is Aalya Faleh Al-Derbali, Hamza's 75-year-old mother.

"Canada is deeply concerned by the ongoing armed clashes in Libya and calls on all parties to de-escalate tensions and to respect their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law," a representative from Global Affairs Canada told As It Happens in a statement.

The statement reiterated its concern "about the humanitarian crisis in Libya, which has disproportionately affected vulnerable groups such as internally displaced people, refugees and migrants," and called on parties to allow citizens to safely leave the conflict zones.

'That has got to stop'

Hamza says the blame for his family's deaths rest squarely on Haftar's shoulders. 

For years, he has been entreating government officials and the International Criminal Court to prosecute Haftar for their deaths.

He says the military strongman — who has the backing of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — should be investigated for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, or by Canada under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

The latter would prove particularly difficult. While the War Crimes Act applies to atrocities committed overseas, it can only be used to prosecute individuals who are inside Canada. 

Hamza also lost his sisters Faiza Abdalla Hamza Al-Jarari, 38, left, and Fariha Abdalla Hamza Al-Jarari, 40, right. (Submitted by Ali Hamza)

But Hamza says it's time for Canada and the rest of the world to stand up against Haftar.

"That has got to stop," Hamza said. 

"He has some enablers who make him feel that he is above the law ... who made him feel that he can show show the mutilation of the dead and the insulting of the dead, including my mom who is 75 years old."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Canadian Press. Interview with Ali Hamza produced by Allie Jaynes.

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