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Fact-finding mission on Libya: human rights violations are impeding transition to peace, democracy and the rule of law

GENEVA (28 March 2022) – Continuing serious human rights violations and a culture of impunity prevailing in different parts of Libya are impeding the transition to peace, democracy and the rule of law, according to a group of human rights experts in their latest findings. 

In its second report published today, the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya* cites multiple violations affecting the transition to democracy and the integrity of the electoral process, such as intimidation and harassment of activists, attacks on the judiciary as a protector of human rights, and mass violations affecting vulnerable groups including migrants, women, peace activists and detainees.

The three-person Mission concludes there are reasonable grounds to believe that international human rights and humanitarian law are being violated in several secret detention facilities in Libya.  

The Mission’s ongoing investigation covers reports of human rights violations inside several prisons that were declared closed yet reportedly still operate in secret and secret prison networks allegedly controlled by different armed militias. The Mission has also found that authorities failed to implement orders to release detainees in numerous instances.

In its report of October 2021, the Fact-Finding Mission concluded that acts of murder, torture, imprisonment, rape and enforced disappearance perpetrated in Libya’s prisons may amount to crimes against humanity.

“We have uncovered further evidence that the human rights violations experienced by detainees in Libya are widespread, systematic or both,” stated Mohamed Auajjar, the Chair of the Fact-Finding Mission.

The Mission’s latest investigations coincide with further political turmoil in Libya, notably the final lead-up to and aftermath of the postponement of elections scheduled for December 2021. In the report, the experts explain that this has directed their fact-finding efforts towards violations, abuses and crimes that can especially hamper the transition to the rule of law and democratic elections. 

According to the experts, several worrying incidents in the run-up to December 2021 cast doubt on governmental and de facto authorities’ fulfilment of their obligations to guarantee freedom of expression and assembly for Libyans. Among these incidents were the reported arrest and detention by armed groups of individuals from Sirte for expressing views about the elections or support for candidates.

The Fact-Finding Mission also describes ongoing impunity for attacks against women politicians, undermining women’s meaningful political participation, and efforts by armed men in November 2021 to prevent the Sebha Court of Appeal from reviewing the eligibility of candidates for the presidential election. The Mission sees the judiciary as a cornerstone of upholding the rule of law, transition to democracy and protecting the rights of all those in Libya.

In its previous report, the Mission found that numerous violations against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers may amount to crimes against humanity. It has since continued to document consistent patterns of murder, torture, inhumane acts, rape, persecution and enslavement.

Incidents documented in the new report include the raid on the Gargaresh area of Tripoli in early October 2021, targeting foreigners and migrants, and ensuing incidents of excessive force in detention centres under the control of the Department for Combating Illegal Migration.

The Fact-Finding Mission also investigated continuing abuses at the hands of traffickers. In one case, a boat mechanic reported being abducted and tortured by an armed group involved in trafficking. He told the Fact-Finding Mission, “I was burned with cigarettes. They poured petrol on me and attempted to set me on fire. […] I was penetrated with a knife [,] a baseball bat [and] a broomstick. I was filmed by my abductors, who threatened to release the video.”

Today’s report also cites alarming reports of attacks on civil society organizations, activists and human rights defenders in Libya. The experts refer to several restrictive laws and regulations, including the Anti-Cybercrime Law ratified on 26 October 2021, that they say contribute to silencing such actors, along with journalists. Threatening activists online is routine, say the experts. An anti-gender equality campaign unleashed hate speech and incitement to violence against women activists, the report adds.

The report acknowledges the sincere cooperation of the Libyan authorities with the Fact-Finding Mission, including a productive initial mission to Benghazi in March 2022, where prosecutors shared information about their investigations of some incidents. Nonetheless, it cautions, profound challenges remain in ensuring accountability.

The report concludes with recommendations for ending violations, seeking accountability, and strengthening Libyan rule-of-law institutions through technical support to achieve democracy and the rule of law. The Fact-Finding Mission recommends extending its mandate beyond its current end date of 30 June. The Mission seeks to support the Libyans in their aspirations for transition, peace, reconciliation, and accountability.

ENDS

*The experts are: Mohamed Auajjar (Chair), Tracy Robinson and Chaloka Beyani.  Bios found here

The report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council during an interactive dialogue on Wednesday, 30 March. The Council established the Fact-Finding Mission in June 2020 by resolution 43/39 with a mandate to investigate alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed in Libya since 2016. In October 2021, by resolution 48/25, the Council extended this mandate to 30 June 2022 and requested the report that the Fact-Finding Mission has issued today. The Mission is scheduled to deliver a comprehensive report at the next session of the Council, in June.

For more information about the UN Fact-Finding Mission visit their website - https://waps.ohchr.org/en/hr-bodies/hrc/libya/index

Media contacts: Rolando Gomez, rolando.gomez@un.org, Matt Brown, matthew.brown@un.org or Pascal Sim, simp@un.org