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UN Human Rights Council: the human rights situation in Libya

Statement delivered as part of the Interactive Dialogue on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Update on Libya

Human Rights Watch welcomed the Council’s decision in March to mandate OHCHR to dispatch a mission to investigate abuses committed in Libya since 2014 and are looking forward to the High Commissioner’s written report on the findings of this inquiry at the Council’s 31st session. Libya is facing a human rights crisis and a comprehensive documentation of ongoing crimes in Libya, with a view to accountability, is vital.   

Human rights conditions in Libya have regressed sharply. Over the last year, armed groups have attacked civilians and civilian property, with some violations that amount to war crimes. Human Rights Watch has also documented other serious violations of international law since 2011, including arbitrary detentionstortureforced displacement, and unlawful killings. Many of these violations are sufficiently organized and widespread to amount to crimes against humanity.

For these and other serious violations committed in Libya, accountability is required. 

However, Libyan authorities have failed to investigate or prosecute those responsible for grave violations. Libya’s institutions, particularly its judiciary, are in a state of near-collapse, and many courts have suspended their activities due to targeting of judges and prosecutors and the general deterioration in security. Inaction by authorities in Libya to address escalating crimes has contributed to a culture of impunity and has helped set the stage for the lawlessness in Libya today.

Despite its ongoing jurisdiction in the country, the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) docket remains limited to crimes committed in 2011 and it has not opened new investigations into ongoing crimes that fall into its mandate. In the face of mounting atrocities, Human Rights Watch has called on the ICC prosecutor to urgently exercise the mandate given unanimously to her by the Security Council to pursue an investigation into ongoing crimes.

As armed conflicts in the country continue, Libya also edged towards a humanitarian crisis, with almost 400,000 people internally displaced and rising disruption to basic services, such as power and fuel supplies. The wide-scale breakdown in law and order has contributed to an unprecedented number of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers transiting through Libya as they made their way towards Europe.

Given the gravity and urgency of the situation, we look to the Human Rights Council to underline the urgent need for justice for ongoing human rights violations and for the High Commissioner to make concrete recommendations in this regard in his office’s upcoming report. We hope that this will help pave the way for accountability.

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