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HRC 52: Refugees in Libya demand justice and accountability for crimes committed in Libya

During the Interactive Dialogue with the Fact-Finding Mission on Libya under agenda item 10, ISHR and Refugees in Libya delivered a joint statement highlighting the human rights violations faced by refugees and migrants in the country.

During the Interactive Dialogue with the fact-finding mission on Libya under agenda item 10, ISHR and Refugees in Libya delivered a joint statement highlighting the human rights violations faced by refugees and migrants in the country.

David Yambio, a co-founder and speaker of the self-organized protest movement Refugees in Libya and a refugee in Libya who was forcibly conscripted by the RADA militias, and sent to war fronts, asked UN member States in his statement before the Council: if the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) in Libya is discontinued, who will document the violations in Libya, including against migrants, and how will the victims find justice and accountability?

In the Interactive Dialogue, the chairperson of the FFM underlined that ‘[…] the Mission found that crimes against humanity were committed against migrants in places of detention under the actual or nominal control of Libya’s Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration, the Libyan Coast Guard, and the Stability Support Apparatus. These entities received technical, logistical, and monetary support from the European Union and some of its member States for, inter alia, the interception and return of migrants.’

The chairperson also addressed the findings of the FFM, saying that there are ‘reasonable grounds to believe that the crime against humanity of sexual slavery had been committed in the trafficking hubs of Bani Walid and Sabratah during the Mission’s mandate’. These heinous crimes targeted women, men and children.

Several missions addressed the crimes committed against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Speaking on behalf of the Nordic-Baltic countries, Finland stressed that ‘accountability for violations and abuses committed is key’, calling on Libya to hold accountable all those responsible and encouraging ‘full scrutiny of detention centres, leading to reforms, and dismantling secret prisons.’

Read the statement and watch it in the below video:

Mr President,

This is a joint statement by ISHR and Refugees in Libya.

Between 2019 and 2020, I was forcibly conscripted by the RADA militias, and sent to war fronts alongside hundreds of other refugees and migrants. Many people perished before my eyes.

In 2021, in Tripoli, around 4000 migrants and refugees came together to protest for more than 100 days in front of the UNHCR headquarters demanding better treatment and conditions.

On 10 January 2022 militias violently broke up the peaceful protest. Mohammed Al-Khoja, the head of the detention camps in Libya, and who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for human trafficking, ordered his militias to shoot at the protesters and set fire to our camps. It all happened in front of UNHCR headquarters. The agency that is supposed to protect us had, two days earlier, closed its offices and left.

Subsequently, hundreds of peaceful protestors were removed to the Ain Zara detention camp. More than 250 of them are still detained. In these detention centers, refugees and migrants live in enslavement conditions, sleep in inhuman conditions, vulnerable to diseases, and eat once a day.

As documented by the FFM, “trafficking, enslavement, forced labour, imprisonment, extortion and smuggling generated significant revenue for individuals, groups and State institutions”. The FFM found that “there were reasonable grounds to believe that the underlying acts of crimes against humanity were committed in detention centres”.

We question as the victims, as refugees who have lived in Libya, as people who have been forcibly intercepted on the Mediterranean and returned to Libya, where is the accountability? And if the mandate of the only independent and impartial investigative body on Libya comes to an end, who will document these violations? Where do we find justice? Where do we find accountability?

We will keep demanding that:

  • all detainees are freed from all detention camps throughout Libya,
  • all the prisons are closed,
  • UN member states stop financing these grave human rights violations, and
  • this Council mandates a global commission of inquiry on migrant deaths and discrimination at land borders and at sea.

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