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UN Human Rights Council should prioritize countering raging impunity in Libya

Interactive Dialogue – High Commissioner’s oral update on Libya

Human rights conditions in Libya continue to deteriorate. Political divisions and protracted conflicts since 2011, resulted in internal displacement of over 200.000 people, a collapsed economy and lack of basic services including the public health system. Militias and armed groups, including some who are affiliated with the two governments vying for legitimacy in the east and west of the country, have attacked civilians and civilian property. They have tortured, unlawfully killed, disappeared and forcibly displaced people. Thousands of detainees languish in long-term arbitrary detention in prisons nominally under the justice, defence and interior ministries as well as unofficial detention centres around the country. Violence is the order of the day.

Despite a recent drop in numbers, thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers fleeing conflict and persecution or hoping for better economic opportunities, continue to flock to Libya on their route to Europe. While in Libya, they face horrific abuse by guards, militias, smugglers and coast guard forces. Over the past years, we documented conditions in migrant detention centres that are nothing short of inhumane. Detainees, including children under 18 years, are subject to torture, extortion, sexual violence, food deprivation and forced labour.

Human Rights Watch has documented violations in Libya since 2011. Notably, we have seen no shift in the prevailing culture of impunity. On the contrary, six years after the end of the 2011 uprising, Libya has transformed into an accountability-free zone. The judicial system has partially collapsed, police officers have no clout, while prosecutors, judges and lawyers risk attacks, threats and harassment. The International Criminal Court has opened one investigation into ongoing crimes in eastern Libya. Many more are needed to deter violent warlords and criminal networks.

There are no quick fixes to any of these issues. But this council has the power and responsibility to establish investigative mechanisms for future justice and accountability. High Commissioner, there is an urgent need for public documentation of the most serious crimes and human rights violations by all sides. Which concrete recommendations would you propose to the Human Rights Council for such an instrument on Libya?

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