Libya Platform: All parties in Libya must respect  international human rights law and international humanitarian law

In Arab Countries, International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

The Libya Platform calls on all parties to the armed conflict in Libya to abide by their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including the principles of proportionality and discrimination in the use of force. They must immediately refrain from targeting the civilian population and civilian infrastructure, stop using weapons that do not permit precision targeting within civilian neighborhoods, and stop extrajudicial executions. The Platform urges warring parties: to guarantee safe passage for civilians; to enable transport and medical services for the injured; and to establish a ceasefire to allow the movement of civilians and the transport of detainees, asylum seekers, and migrants.

On April 4, 2019, according to statements from the warring parties, forces loyal to the interim government and House of Representatives in the eastern and southern part of the country advanced on Tripoli, backed by loyalist militias. The declared goal, according to Khalifa Haftar, the commander of the offensive, is to “purge” Tripoli of militias and terrorism. Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of the Presidential Council, and other government members announced they would “forcefully” resist the assault. Forces with the Government of National Accord and its allied militias have organized to repel the assault.

According to the World Health Organization, the shelling and discharge of gunfire on the Libyan capital in recent days has injured 614 people and killed 147, among them an ambulance driver and two doctors. In addition, eight ambulances have been hit since the outbreak of violence. Thousands of people have fled their homes, while civilians remain trapped in areas of fighting.

UNICEF has warned that nearly a half million children in Tripoli, as well as tens of thousands in western areas, are at immediate risk due to the heightened conflict. More civilians are endangered as warplanes and rocket launchers are being deployed in and around Tripoli environs, especially on the airport road, Qasr Ben Gashir, Ain Zara, Wadi al-Rabee, Sawani Benyadem, and Azizia, where more than 13,500 people have been displaced. At least 1,400 detained refugees and migrants are near the frontlines of the fighting, held in detention centers in Qasr Ben Gashir, Gharyan, and Ain Zara. Some of the detainees were arrested at sea while attempting to cross the Mediterranean for Europe; they were returned to Libya in recent months and housed at Libyan ports, in violation of international law, which bars returning a person to an unsafe port.

 In southern Libya, the Libyan branch of ISIS (Daesh) on April 9, 2019 attacked several locations in the town of al-Faqha, located in the Jafra municipality, which gave the terrorist organizations control of the city for a few hours, after the police commander and mayor were killed, a citizen was slaughtered and four citizens abducted, and three homes and the city police headquarters were set on fire.

The Platform emphasizes that the presence of armed groups designated as terrorist or criminal in Tripoli and its environs does not permit civilians to be targeted for collective punishment. We call on all parties to refrain from using civilians as human shields and to ensure that counterterrorism efforts are conducted with respect to the rule of law and human rights so as to protect the civilian population.

The Libya Platform underscores that such violations could amount to war crimes, according to Article 8(2) of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). They are also a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law under the Geneva Conventions.

On April 9, 2019, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said, “The people of Libya have long been caught between numerous warring parties, with some of the most vulnerable suffering some of the gravest violations of their human rights.”

In this context, the LP warns Security Council members of the grave dangers of disregarding the reports of the Security Council Committee of Experts, mandated by Resolution 1970/2011. The expert committee documented serious violations of arms embargoes and military support from regional and international countries such as Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey, according to reports in June 2017March 2016 and February 2015. These countries support armed groups in western and eastern Libya, including radical armed groups with close ties to al-Qaeda and the Salafists’ Madkhali trend. Furthermore, individuals affiliated to these groups claim to be fighting terror while committing the same violations as the terrorists, without respect for the four Geneva Conventions on the Basic principles of International Humanitarian Law relating to armed conflict, whether internal or international.

The Platform notes that the ongoing armed clashes this April, which critically jeopardize civilian lives and safety, do not occur in an isolated context. On January 16, 2019, grave violations were committed during renewed fighting in Tripoli between warring militias, which left dozens of people dead and injured. This came one day after General Haftar, the commander of the armed forces appointed by the House of Representatives in eastern Libya, announced a military offensive in southwest Libya and entered several southern Libyan cities, during which attacks on civilians and reprisals were documented. The commander also announced the end of military operations in Derna after a fierce battle with the Derna Shura Council (the Derna protection force) following a siege of the city.

On January 7, 2019, UN Secretary-General António Guterres presented a report to the UN Security Council on the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). From August 2019 to January 2019, the report stated: “Armed groups across Libya continued to commit violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in a climate of continued impunity. Civilians continued to bear the brunt of the escalation of fighting and violence. UNSMIL documented 71 civilian casualties, including 46 killed and 25 injured. That included 8 boys and 1 girl who were killed.”

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking of Libya in March 2018, described the state of the country as “near-complete lawlessness throughout the country, with almost total impunity for even the most serious crimes.”

In its April 4 meeting with UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the Platform urged the secretary-general to adopt the Roadmap for Human Rights Reform and Restoring the Rule of Law . During the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Platform also urged member states to establish a fact-finding commission on ongoing, widespread human rights violations. The committee would be tasked with establishing individual criminal liability and identifying the chain of command, to be announced in public reports, to end rampant impunity in Libya.

The Libya Platform urges all parties to end the fighting as a positive step toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict. There can be no lasting settlement of the conflict in Libya without considering international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and ensuring accountability for past and ongoing violations.

The Libya Platform urges:

  • The warring parties in Libya: to comply with their obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including the principles of the proportionate and discriminate use of force, and immediately stop targeting the civilian population and civilian infrastructure.
  • To the UN Security Council: to enforce the provisions of Resolution 2174, adopted in 2014, and begin to take effective steps to ban travel and freeze the assets of perpetrators of grave human rights violations. To sanction any individuals or States that violate the arms embargo on Libya. To call for an end to all foreign government’s military intervention in the conflict.
  • To local and international media: end incitement and warmongering, and adopt a discourse of peace and national reconciliation.
  • To the UN Human Rights Council: swiftly convene an emergency meeting on Libya and adopt a resolution establishing a fact-finding commission and effective investigative instrument.
  • To the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court: intensify investigations into violations related to the armed conflict in Libya, committed by the armed forces and warring parties, to prepare arrest warrants for perpetrators of grave violations, pursuant to the mission of the ICC under UN Security Council Resolution 1970 issued on February 15, 2011.

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