Atrocities against migrants in Libya must be probed by African Commission on People’s Rights

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

A joint request demanding an investigation into the gross human rights violations against refugees and migrants in Libyan detention centers  was submitted today to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) and Associazione Ricreativa e Culturale Italiana (ARCI). The three NGOs also requested the Commission, pending a detailed probe, to provisionally order the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA) to immediately halt abuses against refugees and migrants detained in centers throughout Libya, including in Tajoura, Zawiya, and Zintan.

The request is part of a broader cooperative effort between African and European organizations to challenge illegal policies aimed at curbing migration flows, undertaken by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies in cooperation with the Libya Platform coalition,and by ASGI through the Sciabaca project and ARCI through the #externalisationpolicieswatch project. Cases brought before national and international courts have also thus far challenged actions by the EU and its member States, especially Italy, such as delegating pushbacks to the Libyan Coastguard and contributing to the system of illegal detentions in Libya.

The allegations contained in today’s request are based upon publicly available documentation derived from field research and testimonies collected from a number of persons currently detained in Tajoura, Zawiya and Zintan, who claim to have been tortured, kept in inhumane conditions, starved, denied access to sanitation, food and legal aid. The three detention centers are officially run by the Ministry of Interior under the internationally- recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) based in Tripoli. In addition to a network of over 20 such official centers, there is an unknown number of unofficial detention facilities throughout Libya directly operated by armed militias, where migrants and refugees are systematically abused, including through torture.

The egregious violations perpetrated by the Libyan GNA authorities and armed groups against migrants and refugees in Libya have been widely documented and condemned by all major international agencies, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and non-governmental organizations including Amnesty International, Medecins Sans Frontieres and Human Rights Watch.

The request submitted today alleges multiple violations of fundamental rights guaranteed by the African Charter of Human and Peoples’ Rights, including the Prohibition of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or  Degrading Treatment (Article 5), Right to Personal Liberty and Protection from Arbitrary Arrest (Article 6), and Right to Fair Trial (Article 7). The three NGOs assert that the Libyan GNA is culpable for both its violations in official detention centers and for its failure to prevent or punish abuses committed by armed militias in unofficial detention centers.

The African Commission is presently holding its 26th extraordinary session in Banjul, Gambia, and may decide to open a formal inquiry into the claims and subsequently bring the situation before the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights.


The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) is an independent regional non-governmental organization founded in 1994. It aims at promoting respect for principles of human rights and democracy, analyzing the difficulties facing the application of International Human Rights Law, and disseminating Human Rights Culture in the Arab Region. CIHRS enjoys consultative status in the United Nations ECOSOC, and observer status in the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

The Libya Platform (LP) is a coalition of local human rights associations working together to ensure civil society organisations’ involvement in the transitional phase, and in promoting a culture of peaceful coexistence and respect for the rule of Law. The LP is also working towards ending impunity and fighting against hate speech and violence, and ensuring freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Protecting activists and the media from attacks, ensuring their safety, and guaranteeing a safe space for them to work freely.

Associazione Ricreativa Culturale Italiana (ARCI), is an Italian association committed to promoting and developing civil society as a factor of social cohesion. It calls for a civil and democratic commitment to defend peace, uphold citizens’ rights and fight against all forms of exclusion and discrimination. In the framework of the #externalisationpolicieswatch project, ARCI aims to analyse the policies aimed at externalizing asylum and migration in its various geopolitical components – regional context, link between migration/security/development, use of funds and private sector’s gains, impact on the lives of migrants and local populations – through field missions and monitoring of policies and their effect in terms of systematic violations of fundamental rights. The material produced (video-photographic and text) focuses on specific countries, both countries of origin and transit route countries – such as Libya, Niger, Sudan, Egypt and Tunisia – and is distributed through international advocacy, communication and support, and strategic litigation.

Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI) is an Italian association comprised of lawyers, academics and civil society representatives, focusing on all legal aspects of migration and migrants’ rights, including asylum, statelessness, citizenship, unaccompanied children, xenophobia and discrimination. In particular, ASGI’s Sciabaca project challenges national and EU policies designed to restrain non- European citizens’ right to seek asylum and move freely; through strategic litigation before domestic, European and international courts. To this end, the project established operational partnerships with counterparts in North African countries such as Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt. Sciabaca’s twin project Oruka focuses on five Sub-Saharan African countries, namely Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Ethiopia.


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