UN report reveals human rights violations in libya

Between 5,000 and 6,000 refugees and migrants are being held arbitrarily in Libya’s detention centres, nominally under the authority of the Tripoli-based Ministry of Interior. Photo via JÉRÔME TUBIANA/MSF

United Nations investigators have uncovered further evidence of human rights violations against detainees in Libya and are seeking to verify the existence of mass graves thought to contain the corpses of migrants at a trafficking hub.

In its second report released on Tuesday, the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (FFM) said there were reasonable grounds to believe that international human rights and humanitarian law are being violated in several secret detention facilities in Libya.

“We have uncovered further evidence that the human rights violations experienced by detainees in Libya are widespread, systematic or both,” Mohamed Auajjar, the chair of the FFM, said in a statement.

The 18-page report is set to be presented to Geneva’s Human Rights Council on Wednesday.

Violations include intimidation and harassment of activists, attacks on the judiciary, and abuse towards vulnerable groups, including migrants and women.

The mission also stated that it is looking into witness accounts of “mass graves” in the desert city of Bani Walid.

The mayor of Bani Walid, Younis al-Azozi, acknowledged that there had been abuses of migrants in the past, but said the situation had improved in recent years.

“We deny what was stated in the report … No group or organisation has visited the city for a long time and we do not know from where this group got its information,” he said.

The UN report, the second of three based on some 120 interviews between October and March, flagged grave violations against migrant women occurring in the city where the mass grave is alleged to be.

“If migrants … heard the word Bani Walid, she or he would start crying. They set fire to and burn women’s breasts and vaginas there,” a female migrant told investigators.

It is unknown how many bodies might be buried in the graves. Chaloka Beyani, one of the mission’s three members, said a newly appointed forensic expert would investigate further.

The FFM also investigated a raid on the Gargaresh area of Tripoli in early October. The crackdown resulted in the arrest of more than 5,000 people and in the detention of several vulnerable individuals, including 215 children and more than 540 women, the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.

Beyani said the situation for migrants in Libya was “very, very dire”, and called for technical assistance to help Libya hold the perpetrators accountable.

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