Libya

All Parties to the Conflict in Libya, including Third States, Foreign Fighters and Mercenaries, Have Violated International Humanitarian Law, and Some Have Also Committed War Crimes, Chair of Fact-finding Mission on Libya Tells Human Rights Council

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7 October 2021

Mohamed Auajjar, Chair of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Libya, this morning told the Human Rights Council that the Mission's investigations had established that all parties to the conflict in Libya since 2016, including third States, foreign fighters and mercenaries, have violated international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of proportionality and distinction, and some have also committed war crimes.

Mr. Auajjar said airstrikes had killed dozens of families. The destruction of health-related facilities had impacted access to health care and anti-personnel mines left by mercenaries in residential areas had killed and maimed civilians. Arbitrary detention in secret prisons and unbearable conditions of detention were also widely used by the State and militias against anyone perceived to be a threat to their interests or views. Violence in Libyan prisons was committed on such a scale and with such a level of organization that it may also potentially amount to crimes against humanity.

He said individuals and groups - both Libyans and foreign actors - had been identified and may bear responsibility for the violations, abuses and crimes committed in Libya since 2016. This confidential list would remain so, until the need arose for its publication or sharing with other accountability mechanisms. The extension of the mandate for another year would allow the Mission to complement the work undertaken.

Libya, speaking as the country concerned, assured the Council of Libya's political will to promote human rights and to assume its responsibilities in that regard, as evidenced by its support for the establishment of the Mission, its subsequent cooperation with the Mission and its support for the extension of the mandate. Libya had cooperated with the Mission despite all the challenges, including those related to COVID-19 - and hoped that more efforts would be focused to help the Libyan Government through technical assistance and capacity building. Libya therefore asked what measures the international community intended to take to remedy the impunity of certain countries that did not comply with international resolutions on the arms embargo or the presence of mercenaries in Libya. Libya also asked about the state of international initiatives to combat transnational crime, which directly affected the ability of national institutions to carry out their missions.

In the interactive dialogue on Libya, speakers welcomed the cooperation of the Libyan Government with the Fact-finding Mission. Concern was expressed over the targeting of civilians. Speakers expressed hope for free forthcoming elections in Libya on 24 December. Some speakers noted how human rights violations and abuses by militias, armed groups and security forces continued unabated in Libya in a climate of impunity. The Fact-finding Mission had documented widespread arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and other unlawful deprivation of liberty, torture and other ill-treatment, rape and sexual and gender-based violence, unlawful killings, and grossly unfair trials, including military trials for civilians.

Speaking on Libya were European Union, Denmark, Cameroon, Egypt, Qatar, Liechtenstein, Greece, Germany, United Nations Children's Fund, Egypt, Switzerland, Iraq, Netherlands, Bahrain, Venezuela, Malta, Russian Federation, Morocco , United States, Turkey, Belgium, China, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Italy, United Nations Women, Algeria, Yemen, United Kingdom, Spain, Mali, Jordan, Ireland, Mauritania , Tunisia, Sudan, France, Chad and Austria.

The following non-governmental organizations also spoke on Libya: International Institute for Rights and Development Geneva, Amnesty International, Elizka Relief Foundation, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Human Rights Watch, Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, International Commission of Jurists, World Organisation Against Torture, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, and International Human Rights Council.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.

Speaking on the Central African Republic, speakers welcomed the efforts of the Government of the Central African Republic in the field of the promotion and protection of human rights in a particularly difficult security context. Faced with the continuing instability, several speakers called on the international community to come to the aid of the Central African Republic so that it could return to the path of development. Some speakers expressed deep concern at the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation, as evidenced by alarming reports of abuses committed by State forces, State-affiliated forces and other armed groups, including extrajudicial and summary executions, torture and ill-treatment, as well as arbitrary arrests and detentions.

Portugal, United Nations Women, United Kingdom, Ireland, Mauritania, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Cameroon and France spoke about the Central African Republic, as did the following non-governmental organizations: World Evangelical Alliance Co-sponsor: Caritas Internationalis (International Confederation of Catholic Charities), Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Defense for Children International, African Meeting for the Defense of Human Rights, and Elizka Relief Foundation.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council's forty-eighth regular session can be found here.

The Council will resume its meeting at noon to hear the High Commissioner for Human Rights present reports on Cambodia, Georgia and the Philippines, plus an update on Yemen, followed by the general debate on technical assistance and capacity building.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic

The interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic started on Wednesday, 6 October and a summary can be found here.

Interactive Dialogue

Several speakers welcomed the efforts of the Government of the Central African Republic in the field of the promotion and protection of human rights in a particularly difficult security context. Faced with the continuing instability, several speakers called on the international community to come to the aid of the country so that it could return to the path of development. Some speakers expressed deep concern at the deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation, as evidenced by alarming reports of abuses committed by State forces, State-affiliated forces and other armed groups, including extrajudicial and summary executions, torture and ill-treatment, as well as arbitrary arrests and detentions. Many speakers pointed to the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in many parts of the Central African Republic, including the recruitment of children by armed groups, forced marriages, or gender-based and sexual violence.

Some speakers particularly regretted the numerous attacks on schools and called on the Central African Government to take concrete measures to protect children, such as the implementation of a reintegration programme for enrolled children and ensuring genuine access for all children to school. The presence of Russian mercenaries responsible for violations in the Central African Republic was also regretted by a number of speakers. The restoration of peace required the eradication of the circulation of arms, the disarmament and demobilisation of armed bands, the reduction of violence in general, and the strengthening of the political, economic, social and cultural institutions. All necessary measures must be taken to prevent violations and abuses, and to ensure that all perpetrators were brought to justice. It was imperative that victims received an effective remedy, including financial, medical and psychosocial support. Some speakers urged the Government of the Central African Republic to continue its efforts to build the capacity of the justice sector, to support the work of the Special Criminal Court, and to operationalise the Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission, so that those responsible for the violations and abuses could be brought to justice.

Concluding Remarks

YAO AGBETSE, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said that prevention involved the fight against impunity, in particular against the perpetrators of sexual violence; people on the Security Council sanctions committee list, which included most of the heads of armed groups; Russian mercenaries; the peacekeepers responsible for sexual violence; and companies that promoted the financing of armed groups. Mr. Agbetse called for increased financial support for the demobilisation and disarmament process. The international community and the Central African authorities should also mobilise resources to support the country's youth in their entrepreneurial appetite in order to revive the country. The Central African Republic was experiencing a chronic food crisis, with more than 40 per cent of children under five suffering from malnutrition. In this context, he hoped for an increase in humanitarian aid in areas of the country affected by hunger.

Mr. Agbetse called for the strengthening of national institutions in charge of good governance and human rights. To implement the accountability process, the international community must support the development of the Criminal Court and the Truth, Justice, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission.

Interactive Dialogue with the Report of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Libya

Presentation of Report

MOHAMED AUAJJAR, Chair of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Libya, presenting the Mission's report, said resolution 43/39 mandated the Mission to document alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by all parties in Libya since 2016. The events investigated spanned over a period of five years and were committed throughout the territory of Libya, including in its territorial sea. They involved a plurality of perpetrators, including State and non-State actors, but also third States, mercenaries and foreign fighters. Even with additional time, comprehensively addressing the human rights situation in Libya since 2016 had proved to be impossible. Conducting such a comprehensive investigation was curtailed by the fact that the Secretariat supporting the mission's work became fully operational only in June 2021. However, the Mission had found credible and reliable evidence that countless human rights violations and abuses, and violations of international humanitarian law and international crimes were committed in Libya since 2016.

Mr. Auajjar said that a heavy toll had been taken on the most vulnerable in Libya. Civilians had suffered from the throes of war in violation of international humanitarian law. Enforced disappearances had left families terrified about the fate of their loved ones. Patterns of torture and inhumane treatment of detainees were prevalent in several prisons. Extrajudicial killings were routinely used as a means of punishment - and leading women figures had been the object of targeted attacks aimed at silencing them. Children had been recruited and used to take a direct part in hostilities, and thousands of internally displaced persons were still unable to return to their homes. Migrants, refugees and asylums seekers found themselves caught in patterns of violence, at sea, in detention centres and in the hands of traffickers. The violence had had a dramatic impact on Libyans' economic, social and cultural rights.

The Mission's investigations had established that all parties to the conflicts since 2016, including third States, foreign fighters and mercenaries, had violated international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of proportionality and distinction, and some had also committed war crimes. Airstrikes had killed dozens of families. The destruction of health-related facilities had impacted access to health care and anti-personnel mines left by mercenaries in residential areas had killed and maimed civilians, Mr. Auajjar said. Arbitrary detention in secret prisons and unbearable conditions of detention were also widely used by the State and militias against anyone perceived to be a threat to their interests or views. Violence in Libyan prisons was committed on such a scale and with such a level of organization that it may also potentially amount to crimes against humanity.

The Mission's investigations further indicated that immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees were subjected to a litany of violations and abuses which were committed on a widespread scale by State and non-State actors. In addition, the Mission reached findings regarding the enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of prominent women figures; the prevailing nature of sexual and other forms of violence against vulnerable populations, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex persons; and the recruitment and direct participation of children in hostilities. Individuals and groups - both Libyans and foreign actors - had been identified and may bear responsibility for the violations, abuses and crimes committed in Libya since 2016. This confidential list would remain so, until the need arose for its publication or sharing with other accountability mechanisms. The extension of the mandate for another year would allow the Mission to complement the work undertaken thus far - and would also give the Mission the opportunity to examine allegations of widespread and systematic abuses in the town of Tarhuna, in the south of Tripoli. The Mission would also investigate the endemic gender discrimination and violence, the links between State officials, armed groups and traffickers, as well as the root causes underlying the escalation of ethnic tensions in several parts of the country.

Statement by the Country Concerned

Libya, speaking as the country concerned, assured the Council of Libya's political will to promote human rights and to assume its responsibilities in that regard, as evidenced by its support for the establishment of the Mission, its subsequent cooperation with the Mission and its support for the extension of the mandate. Libya had cooperated with the Mission despite all the challenges, including those related to COVID-19 - and hoped that more efforts would be focused to help the Libyan Government through technical assistance and capacity building. The rule of law was the key form of deterring all forms of violence, including the creation of a government of national unity. The Libyan Government had assumed its role and needed assistance from the international community to meet its responsibilities during this critical time. Libya therefore asked what measures the international community intended to take to remedy the impunity of certain countries that did not comply with international resolutions on the arms embargo or the presence of mercenaries in Libya. Libya also asked about the state of international initiatives to combat transnational crime, which directly affected the ability of national institutions to carry out their missions. Libya asked what measures the international community could take to improve the economy and put an end to capital flight and the theft of antiquities.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers expressed their appreciation for the work of the Fact-finding Mission and welcomed the cooperation of the Libyan Government with the Mission. Some speakers urged the international community to renew its commitment to Libya and redouble efforts to support reconciliation and transitional justice. Libya was commended for improving the capacity of the country to help put an end to all violations. Speakers welcomed the government of national unity and expressed hope for free forthcoming elections in Libya on 24 December. Arbitrary detentions, torture and the use of sexual violence were highlighted as a major concern by some speakers. Those responsible for the violations should be held accountable. The work of the Fact-finding Mission would contribute to accountability in Libya. Impunity needed to be combatted and the strengthening of the Libyan Government's capacity was necessary to help achieve this. Some speakers expressed concern over human rights violations, including sexual violence. The ceasefire had helped the political process in the country, yet further progress towards peaceful settlement had not yet taken place, said some speakers.

Speakers urged the Council to renew the mandate of the Fact-finding Mission, at least for one year, and ensure that it received resources so that it could continue to work on the ground in Libya. The cooperation of the Libyan Government with the Mission was commended. Some speakers said it was necessary to continue providing technical assistance to help the people of Libya. Ensuring the sovereignty of Libya was also very important. The United Nations, through the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, should continue its capacity building assistance in the country. The fight against impunity was key to resolving the conflict, and it must be made a priority. Libyan authorities were urged to accelerate their efforts to hold perpetrators of human right violations accountable. Cases of disappearances should also be investigated.

Some speakers noted how human rights violations and abuses by militias, armed groups and security forces continued unabated in Libya this year in a climate of impunity. The Fact-finding Mission had documented widespread arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and other unlawful deprivation of liberty, torture and other ill-treatment, rape and sexual and gender-based violence, unlawful killings, and grossly unfair trials, including military trials for civilians. Just this week, Libyan security forces and militias had arbitrarily arrested thousands of migrants and refugees and detained them in inhumane conditions, where many were subjected to torture, including sexual violence. One speaker said that the Libyan authorities, those in de facto control of some parts of the countries, and third States involved in the conflict had failed to take any measures to hold accountable those responsible for serious violations of international law, including for mass extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings in Tarhouna. Instead, Libyan authorities continued to provide legitimacy and funding to abusive militias and armed groups. All States were urged to lend full support and cooperation to the Fact-Finding Mission, including through removing any obstacles to accessing prisons, detention centres and other key sites.

Concluding Remarks

TRACY ROBINSON, Member of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Libya, said the report was deeply connected with the question of a dignified life for all. Returning to the question on working in Libya, it was important that all who wished to participate and give evidence to the Fact-finding Mission were able to do so. On the rights of children and child fighters, this issue needed further investigation, but she welcomed all evidence from States and took note of the United Nations Children's Fund's comments on child detentions, which were widespread and systematic. On gender violence and violence against women, the particular vulnerability of women was noted, but Ms. Robinson said the Mission had also noted violence against men and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Violations were also ongoing against women leaders.

CHALOKA BEYANI, Member of the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Libya, welcomed calls for the renewal of the mandate of the Fact-finding Mission for at least a year or more, adding that certain areas in the report needed further investigations. On the issue of children, the presence of foreign fighters was noted, in particular children from Syria. On cooperation with the International Criminal Court and the Fact-finding Mission, there was an overlap and the mandates complimented each other. On the question of reconciliation in Libya, Mr. Beyani hoped that transitional justice could be aided, as well as working with humanitarian law groups.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/10/en-libye-toutes-les-parties-aux-conflits-depuis-2016-y-compris