Tunis, 10 December 2017 - Human Rights Day provides an important moment for reflection and an opportunity to renew calls for action. This year, it also marks the start of a year-long build up to the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a declaration that establishes the equality and dignity of every human being.
Seven decades on, the foundations of a more just world have been laid and the lives of millions have improved. Yet, we also see mounting cruelties and crimes, particularly in conflicts across the world.
In Libya, human rights abuses are carried out at an alarming scale, with no accountability or due process. This year alone, indiscriminate fighting in residential areas, airstrikes and explosive ordinance have tragically left at least 365 Libyans killed or injured including 79 children. Fourteen health facilities were attacked, endangering doctors, patients and the frail healthcare system.
UNSMIL also documented 201 unlawful killings, mainly executions of persons detained by armed groups. Yet, armed groups continue to illegally detain thousands of people, where torture is systematic and deaths in custody occur on a regular basis.
Freedom of expression has been often constrained by fear, and no less often subverted to promote hatred and exclusion. In 2017, we documented 24 cases of attacks, arbitrary or unlawful detention, torture and threats against journalists, activists and others. I salute the brave Libyan human rights defenders and advocates who work every day, sometime in grave peril, to advance human rights across their country.
I have been encouraged to see increasing numbers of internally displaced persons return. However, there is still far to go before all can say they are home.
We must also address the grave abuses endured by the irregular migrants in Libya; including human trafficking, sexual abuse, forced labor and killings. I commend the many Libyans who stood up against such cruelty in solidarity with the migrants and with human rights.
I urge all Libyans to stand up for human rights and for the values that lay the foundation for a safer, fairer and better Libya. You will find the United Nations standing with you.