GENEVA (27 March 2023) – The UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya expressed deep concern over the country’s deteriorating human rights situation in its final report today, concluding there are grounds to believe a wide array of war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed by State security forces and armed militia groups.
The investigation, which outlines a broad effort by authorities to repress dissent by civil society, documented numerous cases of arbitrary detention, murder, rape, enslavement, extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance, and said that nearly all survivors interviewed had refrained from lodging official complaints out of fear of reprisals, arrest, extortion and a lack of confidence in the justice system.
Migrants, in particular, have been targeted and there is overwhelming evidence that they have been systematically tortured. The report said there were reasonable grounds to believe that sexual slavery, a crime against humanity, was committed against migrants.
“There is an urgent need for accountability to end this pervasive impunity,” said Mohamed Auajjar, the Mission’s chair. “We call on Libyan authorities to develop a human rights plan of action and a comprehensive, victim-centred roadmap on transitional justice without delay, and hold all those responsible for human rights violations accountable.”
Libya’s Government is obligated to investigate allegations of human rights violations and crimes in areas under its control in accordance with international standards. But “the practices and patterns of gross violations continue unabated, and there is little evidence that meaningful steps are being taken to reverse this troubling trajectory and bring recourse to victims,” the report said.
The UN Human Rights Council established the FFM in June 2020 to investigate violations and abuses of human rights by all parties since the beginning of 2016, with a view to preventing further deterioration of the human rights situation, and to ensuring accountability. Since then, the FFM has undertaken 13 missions, conducted more than 400 interviews, and collected more than 2,800 items of information, including photographic and audio-visual imagery.
“The Mission’s mandate is ending when the human rights situation in Libya is deteriorating, parallel State authorities are emerging and the legislative, executive and security sector reforms needed to uphold the rule of law and unify the country are far from being realized,” the report said. “In this polarizing context, armed groups that have been implicated in allegations of torture, arbitrary detention, trafficking and sexual violence remain unaccountable.”
The FFM’s investigations found that Libyan authorities, notably the security sectors, are curtailing the rights to assembly, association, expression, and belief to ensure obedience, entrench self-serving values and norms, and punish criticism against authorities and their leadership.
“Attacks against inter alia human rights defenders, women rights activists, journalists, and civil society associations have created an atmosphere of fear that has sent persons into self-censorship, hiding or exile at a time that it is necessary to build an atmosphere that is conducive to free and fair elections for Libyans to exercise their right to self-determination and choose a representative government to run the country,” the report said.
The report said that trafficking, enslavement, forced labour, imprisonment, extortion and smuggling of vulnerable migrants generated significant revenue for individuals, groups and State institutions, and incentivized the continuation of violations.
There are reasonable grounds to believe migrants were enslaved in official detention centres well as “secret prisons,” and that rape as a crime against humanity was committed.
In the context of detention, State authorities and affiliated entities – including the Libya’s Deterrence Apparatus for Combating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DACOT), the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF), the Internal Security Agency (ISA), and the Stability Support Apparatus (SSA), and their leadership – were repeatedly found to be involved in violations and abuses.
Detainees were subjected regularly to torture, solitary confinement, held incommunicado, and denied adequate access to water, food, toilets, sanitation, light, exercise, medical care, legal counsel, and communication with family members.
The report also said women are systematically discriminated against in Libya and concluded that their situation has markedly deteriorated over the last three years. The enforced disappearance of MP Sihem Sergiwa and killing of Hannan Barassi remained issues of deep concern for the FFM, and the Experts reiterated their call on the authorities in Benghazi to adequately investigate these violations and hold accountable those responsible.
The Mission called on the Human Rights Council to establish a sufficiently resourced, independent international investigation mechanism, and urged the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to establish a distinct and autonomous mechanism with an ongoing mandate to monitor and report on gross human rights violations “with a view to support Libyan reconciliation efforts and assist the Libyan authorities in achieving transitional justice and accountability.”
To strengthen accountability, the FFM will share with the International Criminal Court, according to standards of international cooperation in criminal matters and the UN-ICC Relationship Agreement, relevant material and findings it has collected throughout its mandate and a list of individuals it has identified as possible perpetrators of human rights violations and international crimes.