U.S. blacklists Libyan militia, leader after Russia stops U.N. sanctions

Michelle Nichols

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) -The United States unilaterally blacklisted Libya's Kaniyat militia and its leader on Wednesday after Russia last week prevented a U.N. Security Council committee from imposing sanctions over human rights abuses by the group.

The U.S. sanctions were imposed under the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the U.S. government to target human rights violators worldwide by freezing assets and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them.

"Mohamed al-Kani and the Kaniyat militia have tortured and killed civilians during a cruel campaign of oppression in Libya," U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The United States and Germany earlier this month proposed that the U.N. Security Council's 15-member Libya sanctions committee impose an asset freeze and travel ban on Kaniyat militia and al-Kani.

However, such a move has to be agreed by consensus and Russia said on Friday it could not approve the sanctions because it wanted to see more evidence first that they had killed civilians.

The Libyan city of Tarhouna, which was recaptured in June by the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), had for years been controlled by the Kaniyat militia run by the local Kani family, which fought alongside Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).

Last month Libyan authorities dug up 12 bodies from four unmarked graves in Tarhouna, adding to the scores of corpses already discovered since June.

Libya descended into chaos after the NATO-backed overthrow of leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Last month the two major sides in the country's war - the GNA and the LNA - agreed a ceasefire.

Turkey backs the GNA. Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt support the LNA. Those foreign powers have been cited in earlier U.N. documents as supplying weapons in defiance of the arms embargo.

(Reporting by Michelle NicholsEditing by Chizu Nomiyama)