6 March 2023
UN Human Rights Council should ensure meaningful follow-up on the human rights situation in Libya
In July 2022 the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted resolution 50/23 extending the mandate of the United Nations (UN) Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (FFM) "for a final, non-extendable period of nine months, to present its concluding recommendations" at the HRC's upcoming 52nd Session. We, the undersigned civil society organizations, write to draw your attention to the critical need for the HRC to establish a strong, independent follow-up accountability mechanism to continue documenting and reporting on the human rights and impunity crisis in Libya and monitoring the implementation of the FFM's recommendations.
Throughout its mandate, the FFM has documented grave and widespread human rights violations and abuses, and crimes under international law, committed in Libya by all parties since 2016. These include: a) murder, torture, imprisonment, rape, enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts, in several instances amounting to crimes against humanity; b) widespread and systematic human rights violations committed against migrants, with the FFM finding that "reasonable grounds [exist] to believe that crimes against humanity are being committed against migrants in Libya"; c) direct attacks on civilians amounting to war crimes.
During the presentation of its last comprehensive report to the 50th session of the HRC in July 2022, the FFM highlighted that the culture of impunity "continue[d] to prevail" in Libya and posed a "great obstacle towards achieving national reconciliation."
Human rights conditions in Libya today remain precarious as systematic abuses carried out by militias, armed groups and the authorities remain rampant, and impunity for past abuses continues. Internationally banned landmines and other unexploded ordnance abandoned since the 2011 conflict continue to cause substantial civilian harm and displacement. To date, no commanders or Libyan or foreign fighters have been held to account for their involvement in crimes under international law and other serious violations or abuses, such as extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, indiscriminate attacks, arbitrary detentions, torture and the use of antipersonnel mines, including during the 2019-2020 Tripoli armed conflict. Deep political divisions remain in a profoundly fragmented country with the national elections initially scheduled for December 2021 postponed indefinitely and no prospect for an end to the political impasse amid continued human rights abuses. Despite continued promises from state authorities to prioritize accountability, the reality remains that national institutions including the judiciary remain dysfunctional, often unable or unwilling to hold those suspected of serious crimes to account.
Despite repeated calls from civil society echoed by the FFM and other UN experts to lift the sweeping restrictions against domestic and international civic groups in the country, such restrictions remain in place, including in relation to obtaining visas or accessing detention facilities and communities in need, effectively muzzling independent groups doing vital human rights and humanitarian work.
As the FFM concluded in its last report, the recommendations it has made throughout its mandate remain relevant and must be implemented if there is to be any "reasonable prospect for a future Libya based on justice, national reconciliation, respect for human rights and rule of law." The HRC has a vital role to play by ensuring continued, independent international monitoring and reporting, and by supporting progress towards accountability.
In this context, the HRC should take credible action at this session to ensure the establishment of an independent mechanism to follow up on the human rights situation Libya with the mandate and sufficient resources to:
- Monitor, evaluate, provide support for and report on the implementation of the FFM's recommendations - particularly with regard to accountability for serious human rights violations in the country, especially where the FFM found such violations to amount to crimes against humanity, war crimes and other crimes under international law - and make recommendations in this regard;
- Build upon and make use of the information collected by the FFM, including in pursuance of any line of inquiry highlighted by the FFM as requiring follow-up, and continue to investigate and publicly report on the human rights situation in the country, including any gendered dimensions of violations and abuses by all parties;
- With due respect for the informed consent principle, share information, evidence collected and analyses produced, including by the FFM, with relevant national, regional and international courts with competent jurisdiction with a view to supporting ongoing and future legal proceedings, including criminal, and thus providing a pathway for perpetrators of serious violations or abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law to be held accountable; and
- Provide regular updates and public reports to the HRC and other UN bodies.
This follow-up accountability work is distinct from and must be kept separate from the day-to-day monitoring and reporting carried out by the human rights component at the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), so as not to detract from resources required for that work nor jeopardize UNSMIL's access to the country, and in order to protect the strict independence of the follow-up accountability work. Such work would be complementary to, and not duplicative of, the human rights component at UNSMIL.
We urge your government to:
- ensure the important work and findings of the FFM are not met with silence at the upcoming session of the HRC, and
- support the urgent establishment of a follow-up accountability mechanism with the functions outlined above.
Failure to do so would send a dangerous message to perpetrators that they can continue to commit serious crimes under international law with impunity. We stand ready to assist with these efforts in any way we can.
Please accept the assurances of our highest consideration.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
Danish Institute Against Torture (DIGNITY)
Defender Center for Human Rights (DCHR)
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL)
Women's International Leage for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)