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Justice Key to Durable Peace in Libya

Accountability for Crimes Should Follow Ceasefire Agreement

Armed forces allied to internationally recognized government fight with armed group in Tripoli, Libya September 22, 2018.  © 2018 Hani Amara/Reuters

Last week in Geneva the two main parties to the Libyan conflict signed a “complete and permanent” ceasefire under the auspices of the United Nations. This comes after one-and-a-half years of fighting that killed and maimed thousands of people, destroyed critical infrastructure, and displaced tens of thousands of civilians.

Having followed this conflict from day one and documented transgressions by all sides, I welcome some of the agreement's commitments on human rights, but am concerned that it does not address accountability.

The 12-point agreement signed Oct. 23 encompasses security measures such as the withdrawal of armed groups from fighting lines, the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries, reopening of land and air routes, categorization of fighters who could be integrated into state forces, and security cooperation between parties. It also calls for an end to “rampant media escalation and hate speech,” as well as an end to arrests based on identity or political affiliation, and includes provisions for prisoner exchange.

What the agreement does not provide is a clear commitment and a pathway to accountability for the serious crimes and other abuses perpetuated by the conflict parties with support of their foreign backers. This includes indiscriminate attacks that killed civilians, destruction of critical infrastructure, disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and unlawful killings.

One other flaw in the agreement is the demobilization and integration of fighters into state security forces. In addition to establishing strict vetting procedures to disqualify anybody accused of committing serious crimes, there should also be a commitment to hold them accountable for these crimes.

On November 9, the UN will facilitate in-person meetings of the 75 participants of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum it handpicked, in the Tunisian capital. They are tasked with finding consensus on a governance framework that will lead to holding national elections in the near future. Ensuring that accountability takes a prominent role in these discussions will require strong political will. Failure to see justice done will only hamper aspirations for a durable peace.

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