Arbitrary detention and impunity widespread in Libya, warns Turkish envoy to UN — Global Issues

“Trafficking in persons, torture, forced labour, extortion and starvation under intolerable conditions of detention” “take place on a large scale… and continue to go unpunished,” the High Commissioner for Human Rights told member states.

“Mass deportations and human trafficking, including children,” are rampant in Libya, Turk continued, alleging continued complicity between state and non-state actors. Victims who have been subjected to “dehumanization.”

The High Commissioner called on Libyan authorities to investigate crimes against thousands of vulnerable people on the move, and also highlighted the discovery in March of a mass grave in southwestern Libya containing the remains of 65 people believed to be migrants.

“As if this were not horrifying enough, we are following up on reports that another mass grave has recently been discovered in the desert on the Libyan-Tunisian border… The families of those who died have a right to know the truth,” he said.

Anxious state

The High Commissioner also called for a review of a long-standing arrangement between the European Union and Libyan authorities tasked with stopping migrants from crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. He has frequently criticized the arrangement.The statement said the Libyan coast guard had acted recklessly, firing at or near the migrant boat and ramming it, causing it to capsize, before returning survivors to Libya.

Turk noted that in the 12 months to April 2023, more than 2,400 people were killed or went missing while attempting to cross the central Mediterranean, including more than 1,300 from Libya.

“It is unacceptable that people seeking safety and dignity should suffer and die in such unspeakable conditions,” he said.I remind all nations of their collective responsibility under international law to save lives and prevent deaths at sea.

Sahara Crisis

The High Commissioner also called for action to address the deaths of “very many migrants and refugees” travelling through the Sahara to Libya, following new UN estimates. Twice as many migrants may die trying to cross the desert than the Mediterranean.

These grim findings reflect an increasing number of people attempting to cross the Sahara, driven by new conflicts in the Sahel and Sudan, climate change and protracted emergencies in East Africa and the Horn of Africa, but the dangers to migrants and refugees in Libya come amid continued political instability and conflict that has torn the country apart since the toppling of longtime president Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Turku added that a “fragile security situation” had denied UN human rights monitors full access to the south and east of the country, and that investigators had also been denied access to detention centres and other parts of the country.

Extrajudicial murder

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted a sharp increase in “arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances and detention-related violations” in Libya and also expressed concern about the continued targeting of political opponents and those expressing dissent: “While this figure could be much higher and arrests continue, we have verified at least 60 cases of arbitrary detention of individuals who were peacefully exercising their right to express their political opinion.” In some cases, extrajudicial executions followed detention.” He said, arguing that the ongoing lack of accountability for the “violations and abuses” committed in 2011 “remains one of the major obstacles to reconciliation and a driving force behind the conflict today.”

Less than a year after Storm Daniel caused devastating flooding in the coastal city of Derna, killing thousands, Turk argued that ordinary Libyans are enduring “economic hardship coupled with political exclusion” while the country remains “plagued by severe insecurity.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights argued that the situation can be improved, calling for a “rights-based and people-centred” transitional justice and reconciliation process, a sustainable political solution, the restoration of the rule of law, including accountability for human rights violations, and unified legitimate institutions.


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