Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) strongly condemns the attack in the Eastern Libyan city of Derna on the night of the 30 October 2017 which killed 15 people, mostly women and children. LFJL calls for a prompt investigation by the ICC and for the creation of an independent investigative mechanism by the United Nations.
The city of Derna has long been surrounded by the Libyan National Army, and has suffered from a severe shortage of basic necessities including medical supplies and foodstuff. At least 15 people have been killed in Monday’s attack, leaving many trapped in the rubble. All the victims so far have been identified as civilians and the attack was aimed solely at civilian objects. The attacks have been denounced by the internationally recognised Libyan Government of National Accord, who called for three days of mourning. The ambassadors for the UK, US, France and Italy have also issued a joint statement condemning the attack.
There has been a pattern of indiscriminate attacks taking place throughout Libya this year which have caused excessive civilian damage. In October 2017 alone, several armed clashes across Libya, including in Tripoli, Kufra and Misrata, have led to at least 47 civilian casualties. The targeting of civilians or civilian objects by military operations is in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and constitutes a war crime according to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. Respecting the distinction between civilian and military targets is one of the cardinal principles of international law; any action that directly or discriminately attacks civilians should be taken very seriously by Libya and the international community.
Director of LFJL, Elham Saudi, stated that, “What occurred in Derna is a sad reminder of the impunity currently being enjoyed by armed groups in Libya. The ICC has frequently stated that it will look into the international crimes perpetrated in Libya, but it is now time to start holding people accountable. Actions speak louder than words, and the ICC must take immediate action to avoid any further suffering”.
“The United Nations and the international community must also acknowledge that an independent investigative mechanism tasked with establishing the facts, including by establishing the perpetrators of the attack, and monitoring serious abuses and violations in Libya with a view to identifying individual criminal responsibility is long overdue,” added Saudi.
LFJL offers its condolences to the families affected by Monday’s attack. It has become abundantly clear that Libya is unable to prosecute those suspected of committing or ordering the commission of crimes of international law, leading to many perpetrators escaping accountability. Therefore, we renew our calls to the ICC to investigate and prosecute the war crimes being committed in Libya and to the United Nations to create an independent mechanism to investigate and monitor the ongoing situation in Libya.