UN blames all Libyan sides for war crimes

The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said complete impunity continues to prevail in Libya. Photograph: AFP/Getty
The UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said complete impunity continues to prevail in Libya. Photograph: AFP/Getty

All sides in the Libyan conflict are probably guilty of war crimes, including torturing, raping and executing prisoners, the UN has said, urging the world to do more to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“A multitude of actors, both state and non-state, are accused of very serious violations and abuses that may, in many cases, amount to war crimes,” said the UN’s human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

A report released on Thursday documenting abuses committed in Libya between 2014 and 2015 said the situation had deteriorated dramatically during that period.

Libya has had rival administrations since the summer of 2014, when the recognised government fled Tripoli after the Fajr Libya militia alliance including Islamists overran the capital.

A power vacuum since the 2011 toppling ofMuammar Gaddafi has fostered the rise of Islamic State (Isis) in the country, which is headquartered in the former dictator’s hometown of Sirte, but control of Benghazi remains divided between a collection of militias.

The report details how most major armed groups in the country have carried out unlawful killings, mainly executing people they had taken captive as well as those seen voicing dissent.

The six-member investigation team behind the report was able to visit Libya only briefly during its year-long inquiry due to the dire security situation in the country but conducted interviews with more than 200 victims and witnesses.

They described how bodies of people detained by armed groups and the Libyan National Army were found bearing clear evidence of torture and execution-style killings.

The report also details widespread and horrific torture by different factions, including beatings with plastic pipes and electrical cables, prolonged suspension in stress positions, electrocution and lack of food. According to the report, a number of detainees had been tortured to death.

The report, ordered by the UN human rights council, said thousands of people were in detention, most without any proper examination of their cases, and many in secret detention centres.

Sexual violence, while difficult to document, appeared to be rife in places of detention, the investigators said. They detailed one case where a woman said she had been abducted in Tripoli by an unidentified armed group, before being drugged and repeatedly raped over six months. After her escape, she discovered she was pregnant. The woman said she had seen six girls as young as 11 who were sexually abused by members of the same group.

The investigators also decried the forcible recruitment of children by armed groups, including those linked to Isis, who celebrated the practice. The report cited two boys, aged 10 and 14, who said they had been forced from their families to take part in Isis weapons training, using live ammunition, and watch videos of beheadings.

“One of the most striking elements of this report lies in the complete impunity which continues to prevail in Libya and the systematic failures of the justice system,” Zeid said.

The UN report called on the security council to list the individuals responsible for violations or abuses and implement sanctions.

They also complained that the international criminal court tasked with investigating the abuses did not have the resources to do so properly.

The views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Libyan Express.
How to submit an Op-Ed: Libyan Express accepts opinion articles on a wide range of topics. Submissions may be sent to oped@libyanexpress.com. Please include ‘Op-Ed’ in the subject line.
You might also like

Submit a Correction

For: UN blames all Libyan sides for war crimes

Your suggestion have been successfully submitted

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Libyan Express will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.