36 people massacred in Libya: The Libya Platform demands an immediate investigation by the ICC

In Libya, Media Unite, Statements and Reportsby CIHRS

The Cairo Institute of Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and 15 associations of the Libya Platform[1] demand that the International Criminal Court (ICC) immediately investigate the latest massacre in Libya, discovered on October 27- 2017.  36 bodies were found, all of them having gunshot wounds to the head and thrown on the roadside in the city of Abyar, about 70 kilometers from Benghazi. The area is under the control of the General Command of the Libyan Army in the East.

The Platform reminds the ICC Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of[2] the General Prosecutor’s pledges to pursue perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya, and it urges the ICC to expedite investigations into the grave and systematic violations potentially amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes.[3] The dilatory pace of the OTP and ICC member states in executing arrest warrants issued by the OTP[4] and issuing additional warrants for suspects of grave crimes only encourages the continuation of abuses and increases the ranks of violators who become certain they will not face international accountability.

The Platform also calls on the international community and the ICC to look into states violating the arms embargo put in place in 2011 by the UN Security Council Resolution 1970. Such states are fueling the domestic conflict in Libya and share responsibility for violations committed by actors armed in the name of the “War on Terror.” There are several radical groups benefiting from breaches on the arms embargo, and they are infiltrating both eastern and western Libya’s armed and military groups.

Official and de facto executive authorities in eastern and western Libya have failed to take any effective measures, which has eroded trust in the commanders of armed and military groups regarding their intent to investigate any of their influential members.

The so-called General Command of the Libyan Army has taken no action against extrajudicial killings committed by Captain Mahmoud Warfali during operations resulting in the executions of 33 people between June 3, 2016 and July 17, 2017. Although General Command of the Libyan Army in the East announced it had begun investigating Warfarli on August 2, 2017,[5] he was able to issue an official decree on August 14,[6] 2017.

Similarly, an announcement by the Presidential Council did not result in investigations into the May 18, 2017 execution of at least 30 prisoners in Brak al-Shati in southern Libya, from the 12th brigade of the General Command of the Libyan Army, by militias affiliated with the Presidential Council in southern Libya. Nor were measures taken against individuals with the Awliyaa al-Dam Brigade, despite Decree 2 of the General Command in the East on February 27, 2016, which affirmed the violations. The General Command announced its determination to take action against persons involved in violations, but in fact, the individuals in question were deployed to other groups without any legal measures taken to hold them to account for violations.  The violations committed by members of the Awliyaa al-Dam Brigade were documented in the report of the fact-finding committee tasked by the UN Human Rights Council on February 15, 2016.

The Libyan Public Prosecutor’s Office in Tripoli also either did not or was not able to take any effective measures against persons involved in the mass killing of 13 people released from al-Ruwaimi Prison in Tripoli on June 10, 2016. Libyan judicial authorities around the country remain incapable of securing legal accountability for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Judges, public prosecutors, and judicial bodies[7] faced and continue to face attacks in western Libya, in Tripoli, Zawiya, Jumayl, and Ajaylat. In eastern Libya, dozens of civilians are subjected to military trials in violation of Libyan law.

The Platform urges the ICC to disregard promises by Libyan officials and de facto authorities in both the east and west to conduct local investigations, for Libyan executive and judicial authorities are entirely incapable of addressing grave violations in Libya. The Platform also calls on the ICC to continue its investigations and issue additional arrest warrants for those suspected of involvement in serious crimes that fall within the court’s jurisdiction. We urge the court to begin conducting investigations in Libya if possible and from neighbouring Tunisia, a signatory of the Rome Statute, to enable as many victims as possible to give statements and engage with attorneys, judges, and members of the international community.

There are several rival authorities currently in Libya, each with its military and armed groups, fighting ruthlessly over legitimacy. This conflict leads to the ongoing deterioration in the human rights situation, including escalating attacks on judicial officials, local civil society organisations, human rights defenders, media personnel, civilians, and migrants, as well as extrajudicial killing, torture, rape, arbitrary detention, and arbitrary attacks on residential areas and public infrastructure. Some of these violations amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, perpetrated in the context of domestic conflicts between military and armed groups.

We believe that combating impunity for grave human rights violations through an international mechanism will improve the humanitarian situation and lay the foundation for the rule of law and justice in Libya. It will further alleviate the pressure of attacks and the intransigence shown by military and paramilitary groups toward nascent state institutions. Moreover, the operation of this international accountability mechanism inside and outside of Libya will help prevent armed groups from undermining Libyans’ attempts to reach an enduring, peaceful solution.

Despite the ongoing challenges, there is a now a genuine opportunity to combat impunity in Libya and advance the peace process, if only the international community and all Libyan authorities support the ICC’s work in Libya.

[1] The Platform’s vision is to create a safe space for Libyan civil society organizations working on the protection and promotion of human rights to engage in dialogue and coordination and aiming at raising the capacity of those organizations to actively promote public freedoms and human rights in the country, for more information: https://cihrs.org/?p=19101&lang=en

[2] Statements from the OTP of the ICC on Jul. 24, 2014; Nov. 11, 2014; May 11, 2015; Nov. 4, 2015; May 25, 2016; Nov. 8, 2016’ and Aug. 14, 2017.

[3] As elaborated in Article 7 & 8 of the Rome Statute

[4] Under UN Security Council Resolution 1970 of Feb. 15, 2011, crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the ICC shall be referred to it, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. The ICC mandate extends to crimes committed since 2011 to the present day.

[5] No. 31/1957.

[6] No. 167/311.

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