Fact-finding mission in Libya: War crimes committed in the country since 2016
Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: 4 October 2021
The Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya stated in a report it published that there are reasonable grounds to believe that war crimes have been committed in Libya, stressing that violence in prisons and against migrants may amount to crimes against humanity.
All parties committed violations:
Commenting on the report, Mohamed Auajjar, Chair of the Fact-Finding Mission, said: “Our investigations have established that all parties to the conflicts, including third States, foreign fighters and mercenaries, have violated international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of proportionality and distinction, and some have also committed war crimes.”
“Civilians paid a heavy price during the 2019-2020 hostilities in Tripoli, as well as during other armed confrontations in the country since 2016. Airstrikes have killed dozens of families. The destruction of health-related facilities has impacted access to health care, and anti-personnel mines left by mercenaries in residential areas have killed and maimed civilians,” added Auajjar.
The report indicated that the fact-finding mission, including Auajjar, and fellow human rights experts, Chaluca Bayani and Tracy Robinson, collected and reviewed hundreds of documents and interviewed more than 150 people, in addition to investigations in Libya, Tunisia and Italy.
The focus of the mission’s work included the conduct of the parties to the armed conflicts that have taken place across Libya since 2016. The violence has had a dramatic impact on Libyans’ economic, social and cultural rights, as evidenced by attacks on hospitals and schools.
Dire conditions and violations against migrants and asylum seekers:
The report also indicated that the fact-finding mission considered violations in the context of deprivation of liberty and documented the situation of internally displaced persons, as well as that of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
The mission member Chaloka Bayani commented on the report saying: “Migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees are subjected to a litany of abuses at sea, in detention centres and at the hands of traffickers. Our investigations indicate that violations against migrants are committed on a widespread scale by State and non-State actors, with a high level of organization and with the encouragement of the State – all of which is suggestive of crimes against humanity.”
Disturbing patterns of violence in prisons in Libya:
The report stated that the mission found evidence indicating disturbing patterns of violence committed in Libyan prisons, where detainees are subjected to torture on a daily basis, and their families are prevented from visiting them.
“Arbitrary detention in secret prisons and unbearable conditions of detention are widely used by the State and militias against anyone perceived to be a threat to their interests or views,” said mission member Tracy Robinson. “Violence in Libyan prisons is committed on such a scale and with such a level of organization that it may also potentially amount to crimes against humanity,” added Robinson.
Recruitment of children:
The FFM report also documents the recruitment and direct participation of children in hostilities, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of prominent women figures, and persistent sexual and other forms of violence against vulnerable groups, including LGBTI persons. The mission paid special attention to allegations of atrocity crimes committed in the town of Tarhuna (southeast of Tripoli) between 2016 and 2020.
Requests to start investigations:
The fact-finding mission identified individuals and groups (both Libyans and foreign actors) who may be responsible for violations, abuses, and crimes committed in Libya since 2016, and this list will remain confidential until the need arises for it to be published or shared with other accountability mechanisms.
“As Libyans strive to secure peace, ensuring accountability for gross human rights violations and international crimes committed in the country is more necessary than ever to deter further violations and promote long-term peace and reconciliation. We urge Libya to intensify its efforts to hold those responsible to account. It is also essential that the international community continues to provide support to the Libyan judicial authorities,” added Auajjar.
As a comprehensive human rights investigation is an effective tool to enhance accountability and achieve long-term peace and security, the report recommends that the Human Rights Council extend the mandate of the fact-finding mission for an additional year.