Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) condemns attempts to prevent Tawerghans from returning to their hometown of Tawergha. The failed attempt to return to Tawergha follows the landmark visit by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to Libya from 25-31 January. LFJL joins the Special Rapporteur in reminding the Libyan state of its primary responsibility to protect and assist IDPs, and of the need for durable solutions for all displaced persons in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.
On 26 December 2017, the Government of National Accord (GNA) announced that 1 February 2018 would mark the day that Tawerghans would return to their hometown after being violently displaced in 2011. Despite this positive step, Tawerghan families were blocked from reaching Tawergha by armed groups and are currently waiting in neighbouring cities. On 1 February 2018, armed groups allegedly burnt tires outside of Tawergha to cut off access to the city.
LFJL strongly condemns these acts which violate the rights to freedom of movement, self determination and from unlawful interference with one’s privacy, family or home, as recognised by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights to which Libya is a party. The primary responsibility to protect and assist IDPs lies with the state. LFJL is disappointed by the failure of the GNA to put in place a coordinated plan which ensures that return takes place safely and in dignity. LFJL is also concerned by the lack of any significant state response including by providing information and support to the displaced families.
The failed return follows the visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on IDPs, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, to Libya to assess the human rights situation of IDPs. During her visit, Ms Jimenez-Damary met with various ministries and visited Tawerghan IDP camps in Tripoli. Among her preliminary observations, Ms Jimenez-Damary expressed grave concern at the dire situation of IDPs in Libya and recommended that Libya develops a roadmap in line with the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement which would clearly define roles and responsibilities across ministries. She also highlighted the lack of legal or policy framework for the protection of IDPs in Libya which hampers the capacity to respond to internal displacement in a coordinated way. Her comprehensive report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2018.
LFJL’s Transitional Justice Programme Coordinator, Laura McDonnell, stated “Libya cannot move towards reconciliation while armed groups continue to impede the human rights of others. Tawerghans must be allowed to exercise their right to move freely across the country and their right to safe return to Tawergha when they choose to do so. Prioritising equality and human rights and ensuring the safe return, protection and support of Tawerghans is vital to national reconciliation.”
LFJL reminds Libya that solutions to internal displacement must be durable and include plans, which the displaced have participated in designing, for full reintegration. In her preliminary observations, Ms Jimenez-Damary noted, “I cannot stress enough the fact that return of IDPs is not equivalent to solving the issue of displacement, and it is imperative that the Government ensures the safety and assistance of IDPs during return, as well as the rebuilding of their homes and standard of living.”
The visit conducted by Ms Jimenez-Damary represents a significant step by the Special Procedures in implementing their mandates. LFJL encourages other Special Procedure mandates to conduct visits to the Libya based on the standing invitation extended by Libya and urges Libyan authorities to promote and facilitate these visits. LFJL also urges Libyan authorities to take serious measures towards implementing the resulting recommendations.