Statement to the United Nations Security Council on the Situation in Libya, pursuant to UNSCR 1970 (2011)

Mr President, Your Excellencies,

Given the exceptional circumstances in which we currently find ourselves due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am pleased to appear before this Council via video conference to deliver my Office’s nineteenth report on the situation in Libya, pursuant to Resolution 1970.

I congratulate Estonia on assuming the presidency of the Council for the month of May and express my gratitude to the Council for facilitating today’s remote briefing.

Allow me at the outset to also express my condolences to Council members and indeed all members of the United Nations family for the untimely deaths of their respective citizens caused by this global pandemic, and express our solidarity in the fight to contain the spread of the virus. 

Relatedly, let me also emphasise that, despite some inevitable limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, my Office’s Libya team is forging ahead with its judicial work and investigations, managing to remain active and productive in these exceptional times. The Libya situation remains a priority for my Office, and I seize the opportunity in this forum to announce that my team is working on applications for new warrants of arrest.

Mr President, Your Excellencies,

This Council is well aware that, since my last report, serious violence related to the armed conflict in Libya, particularly in and around Tripoli, has regrettably not abated. It is now over a year since the offensive on Tripoli by the eastern-based militia known as the Libyan National Army, headed by General Khalifa Haftar, started. My Office continues to carefully monitor the unfolding events. Of particular concern to my Office are the high numbers of civilian casualties, largely reported to be resulting from airstrikes and shelling operations.

My team continues to gather and analyse information about incidents that have occurred during the recent period of armed conflict that may constitute crimes under the Rome Statute.

I reiterate that intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population, or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities, is a war crime under the Rome Statute. Likewise, the Rome Statute prohibits the intentional directing of attacks against hospitals and other buildings protected under international law, such as those dedicated to religion or education, when they are not military objectives. Even where military targets are involved, the principle of proportionality applies.

Mr President, Your Excellencies,

I have previously also highlighted to your attention the issue of arbitrary detention and serious mistreatment of migrants and refugees attempting to transit through Libya.

This is a grave and persistent problem, and my Office continues to dedicate resources to investigating this matter. In particular, important progress has been achieved through the adoption of a cooperation strategy by my Office, which focusses on the exchange of evidence and information with relevant States and organisations. This activity is conducted with a view to seize synergies and support investigations and prosecutions in domestic jurisdictions. These efforts, I am pleased to report, are producing helpful results.

It is worth stressing that the issue of arbitrary detention and serious mistreatment of detainees affects not only migrants and refugees, but also thousands of other people detained in prisons and detention centres across Libya.

Latest figures indicate that the detention of persons without due process is widespread. Many people are being detained without lawful basis or denied their fundamental procedural rights.

Persons detained without the proper protection of the law are at greater risk of serious forms of mistreatment, including murder, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence.

Information obtained by my Office indicates that such crimes are all too common. Former detainees report brutal methods of torture. Detention-related victims of rape and other forms of sexual violence include men, women and children. Detainees have died from injuries sustained through torture, and from the failure to provide proper and timely medical care.

My Office is aware of allegations of serious violations in many prisons and detention facilities throughout Libya. Of particular note are Al-Kuweifiya and Gernada Prisons located in eastern Libya. These allegations also extend to Mitiga Prison in Tripoli, which is controlled by an armed group known as the Special Deterrence Force. This group officially falls under the authority of the Ministry of Interior of the Government of National Accord.

Serious and urgent reforms in many Libyan prisons and detention facilities appear necessary to prevent future crimes. Accountability for alleged past violations is equally important. Primary responsibility for investigating and prosecuting these alleged crimes rests on Libya. My Office continues to closely follow-up on these allegations. read more

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