A federal US judge issued a default judgement against Khalifia Haftar, finding him liable for war crimes.
Judge Leonie Brinkema's judgement paves the way for families in three separate civil suits to seek monetary compensation.
The families filed their lawsuits under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, a law that allows non-US citizens to seek compensation from individuals who, acting in an official capacity for any foreign nation, allegedly committed torture or extrajudicial killing.
Haftar, a US citizen who had been a Virginia resident for decades, unsuccessfully tried to have the civil lawsuits tossed out under the claim of immunity as head of state.
"This is the culmination of years of work with Libyan victims against what the war criminal Haftar has done for so many years in Libya," Esam Omeish, president of the Libyan American Alliance, an advocacy group that serves as a lead consultant in one of the three lawsuits, told Middle East Eye.
War crimes by Haftar's forces and allied groups have been well documented and now with Haftar having now been found liable in a civil lawsuit, the Libyan American Alliance has said they hoped this will now lead to a path towards criminal prosecution against him.
"We call upon the Attorney General Mr Garland and others to look into the criminality of this US citizen who has committed egregious crimes in Libya," Omeish said speaking to the Middle east eye.
Zaid, the attorney for one of the group of plaintiffs, agreed that this case could soon go from a civil one to a criminal one.
"I have made this clear. I asked both the attorney general under the Trump administration and the Biden administration that under US law - which I actually helped work on 25 or so years ago, the War Crimes Act of 1996 - that Haftar as a US citizen can and should be prosecuted," Zaid said.
"And we still hope the Biden administration will do that."
Read more at Middle East Eye