Libya detention centres remain places of violations and abuse: experts

Libya detention centres remain places of violations and abuse: experts

On the sidelines of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, head of the Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, Mohamed Auajjar, told journalists that investigators had uncovered further evidence of serious rights violations, which they first made public last October.

These abuses against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are detailed in a report which will be presented to the Council on Wednesday, Mr. Auajjar said.

His team’s findings include new information on “20 detention facilities, official and unofficial…(and) secret prison networks that are allegedly controlled by armed militias”.

Years of violent instability

The development comes amid a backdrop of ongoing violence and lawlessness in Libya linked to the country’s protracted crisis that followed the overthrow of President Muammar Gadaffi in 2011.

After years of volatility, the situation came to a head – and thousands died – after April 2019, when fighting erupted between factions of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, based in the east, and the internationally-recognized government in the capital, Tripoli, located in the west.

The escalation prompted a ceasefire appeal from UN Secretary-General António Guterres to avoid the “bloody battle for Tripoli”, amid fighting in and around the capital.

Today, tensions remain high after national elections were postponed last December, Mr Auajjar explained, with “two competing governments” still in place.

“Against this backdrop, violence and violations and abuses of international human rights law continued,” he noted, adding that these “violations and abuses and crimes…can especially hamper Libya’s transition to peace, democracy and the rule of law”.

Democratic freedoms curtailed

Among the investigators’ other findings, they also highlighted how people had been reportedly detained for expressing “views about the elections, or support for candidates”.

Equally worrying was the “ongoing impunity for attacks against women politicians, which undermines women’s meaningful political participation”, Mr. Auajjar said, adding that there had been attacks on civil society organizations, on activists, on human rights defenders and on journalists”.

In another incident indicative of the country’s instability, the Mission’s report detailed how “a group of armed men” had surrounded the Court of Appeal which had been due to hear an appeal by would-be presidential candidate Saif al-Islam Gadaffi – son of the country’s toppled premier – against his exclusion from the December poll.

© UNICEF/Alessio Romenzi

Migrants sit in the courtyard of a detention centre in Libya. (file)

Child victims

Over the weekend, UN Children’s Fund UNICEF in Libya reported that two children have been killed and another injured by explosive remnants of war.

The victims – who included two brothers – were six, seven and 16 years old and from Benghazi and Sirte.

Last year alone at least 26 children in Libya were killed or injured by explosive remnants of war, UNICEF said in a statement.

“UNICEF calls on all parties to spare no effort to clear Libya of land mines and unexploded ordnances and support children and families affected. Every child in Libya across the country has the right to live in a safe and a protective environment.”

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