July 28, 2022
THE fighting that broke out between Libyan militias in Tripoli on July 22, killing at least 13 people, including three children, highlights the state of disarray in the country despite interventions by the UN and the International Criminal Court (ICC) to arrest the situation.
The clashes – between forces backing the same Tripoli-based Presidential Council – were the worst in the city since a late 2020 ceasefire ended more than a year of war.
Elections originally set for last December have been indefinitely postponed while the country is currently controlled by two rival administrations, both supported by a horde of militias.
Despite recent talks in Geneva, a UN peacekeeping official told the Security Council that the various sides had still not been able to agree on the eligibility requirements for presidential candidates, so polls remain on hold.
Candidates who had put themselves forth for the top job in December included several people accused of war crimes and human rights violations.
A mission in June by the Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Libya reported that accountability was pivotal to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the country.
In the third of its periodic reports, the FFM said it uncovered further evidence of such crimes and gross human rights violations amid growing tensions and a persistent political stalemate, contributing to insecurity and ongoing impunity.
FFM Chair Mohammad Aujjar said: “In its three reports, the Mission has reported on serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, some of which amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.
“In this respect, the mission calls for the international community to support the relevant Libyan authorities in conducting prompt investigations, compliant with international standards, into alleged violations and to prosecute those responsible.
“The aim is to put an end to prevailing impunity in the face of clear and persistent patterns of serious human rights violations, in many cases perpetrated by militia groups,” Aujjar added.
Some of the violations identified included direct attacks on civilians during the conduct of hostilities, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, sexual and gender-based violence, torture, and violations of fundamental freedoms.
The FFM said it also gathered further evidence providing “reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity, particularly enslavement, torture, and rape, continue to be committed against migrants in Libya”.
It said it collected evidence relating to over 27 places of detention in the east and west of Libya holding thousands of inmates, including secret and extra-legal prisons.
The FFM reported that it conducted over 90 interviews with current and former detainees in prisons detailing “the crimes against humanity of murder, torture, imprisonment, enforced disappearances and other inhumane acts since 2016”.
Human rights expert Chaloka Beyani, another member of the FFM, said: “At the time of writing the report, localised tensions persist, and some key issues continue to contribute to insecurity and ongoing human rights violation in the country.
“They include the continued presence of Da’esh [Islamic State]-affiliated groups, as well as mercenaries, private military companies, and foreign fighters. Libya’s limited capacity to conduct operations to clear landmines and other explosives is also a contributing factor to insecurity.”
The FFM suggests that Libya’s political transition must take the form of a sustainable, inclusive process that tackles impunity, guarantees the independence of the judiciary, respects freedom of expression, assembly and thought, and ensures state oversight of the security sector.
“Now more than ever, the Libyan people need a strong commitment to helping them to bring lasting peace and justice to their country, and to establish a state based on rule of law and human rights.” Aujjar said.
With the atrocities outlined by the FFM it is clear that the Libyan authorities who are supposed to be investigating these crimes do not appear to have done much.
Neither has the ICC, which has been investigating the Libyan situation since 2011.
Human rights activists say that the Court has so far been largely ineffectual.
In June 2020, a resolution by the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) established the FFM for a period of one year, to investigate violations and abuses of human rights throughout Libya by all parties since the beginning of 2016, with a view to preventing further deterioration of the human rights situation, and to ensuring accountability.