On fourth anniversary of 17 February Revolution, LFJL highlights new war crimes and unprecedented increase in human rights violations
On the fourth anniversary of Libya’s 17 February Revolution, Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) reflects on the human rights violations which have occurred in Libya over the past year and have placed the country in a situation of crisis. LFJL calls on all actors to take urgent action to ensure that the fundamental rights of Libya’s people are protected from these on-going abuses.
Violent Human Rights Violations
Over the past year the number of violent human rights violations committed has dramatically increased. Direct and indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian objects, extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and attacks on media practitioners, legal professionals and activists are all being regularly reported. In the areas which have experienced the most fighting in the last three months of 2014, over 860 people were killed. These include Wershafana, in the West, Benghazi in the East and Ubari in the South. The recently reported beheadings of 20 Coptic Egyptians and one additional Christian man in Sirte by an armed group is yet another horrific example of the gross human rights abuses that have occurred.
Steps must be taken to address these violations and ensure that those responsible for these crimes are held accountable. In addition to action that can be taken by national authorities, LFJL recalls the existence of other accountability mechanisms available to the international community and urges their use. Security Council Resolution 2174 (2014), for example, enables the imposition of travel bans and asset freezes on individuals suspected to be responsible for human rights violations in Libya. The Security Council has yet to make use of this substantial mandate, furthering the perception that those who commit human rights violations are able to enjoy impunity within Libya.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) also has a mandate to investigate international crimes that have occurred in Libya since the 15 February 2011 and to prosecute those responsible. Despite this no new cases have been announced since 2011. LFJL therefore urges the ICC to investigate recent human rights violations, including the reported beheadings, and to pursue arrest warrants for the individuals responsible.
Elham Saudi, LFJL Director, said “For the fourth year in a row, the Libyan state has failed to take responsibility, or action, to prevent the catastrophic human rights violations that have occurred. Impunity and not accountability has become the norm in Libya. All actors must prioritise accountability and holding perpetrators responsible for their actions if Libya is to emerge from this period as a stable state or with a settlement that is truly enforceable.”
Internally Displaced Persons
LFJL remains concerned about the situation facing internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Libya, which continued to worsen over the past year. As a result of the fighting witnessed in 2014, the number of IDPs in Libya is currently believed to have grown to some 400,000 people. Over 5,600 members of the Tawerghan community, who have remained displaced since 2011, suffered additional turmoil as they were forcefully displaced in mid-October 2014 from five of their camps in Benghazi, as a result of the resurgent conflict. Additional communities have also been forced to flee their homes as a result of recent fighting, including those from Wershefana who now account for 100,000 of those internally displaced in Libya.
LFJL acknowledges the positive nature of the agreement reached by the municipalities of Misrata and Tawergha in January 2015. The agreement includes establishing a committee to visit prisons in the city of Misrata and to review the charges against Tawerghans in prisons. The agreement also includes the right of the people of Tawergha to return to their land. LFJL calls on all parties to honour these agreements and to take active steps to ensure their implementation is successful.
Attacks on Fundamental Freedoms
LFJL condemns the recent destruction of religious and historical sites in Tripoli. The Zawiyat Al-Dahmani shrine, a historic Ottoman monument, was demolished on 6 February 2015 by unidentified perpetrators. Nearby Al-Sha’ab Mosque was similarly attacked and destroyed. Such attacks are violations against both Libya’s rich heritage and the rights to freedom of religion and culture that all Libyans are entitled to enjoy inalienably.
LFJL is further concerned about the instability caused by the ongoing violence and threats to Libya’s nascent civil society. Many civil society actors have been forced to flee Libya for security reasons.
The ability of state institutions to function has also been severely undermined by the ongoing instability. Since February 2014, the judicial system has been effectively suspended for all activities that are not civil or administrative in nature. As a result, impunity for crimes, including ongoing human rights violations, remains widespread and those who have suffered abuses have no recourse to justice at the national level.
In light of the worsening human rights situation, LFJL reminds all actors of the consequences this may have on the future of Libya. “On this anniversary we are witnessing Libya’s worst year to date for war crimes and human rights violations. Of those arrested, detained or imprisoned in Libya, 1 in 2 persons will be subjected to torture or violence. Furthermore, 1 out of 5 households has someone missing, arrested, detained or imprisoned. These statistics highlight a worrying normalisation of abuse and demonstrates the significant weakening of the rule of law. For these reasons, today should not only be a day for reflection, but also action,” added Saudi.