On 29 August 2023, The Guardian published graphic footage of a woman lying dead on the floor of Abu Salim migration detention centre – under the authority of the Department for Combating Illegal Immigration (DCIM), Ministry of Interior – in Tripoli, Libya. The 30-second video, reportedly verified by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and a UN source, is believed to have been filmed two weeks ago. The deceased woman in the video, believed to be of Somali origin, lies amongst a crowd of other female detainees who desperately call out for help. Sources say she may have died from tuberculosis. Further information about this case is yet to be confirmed.
For years, human rights groups, UN agencies and survivors have raised the alarm about the hellish situation inside DCIM detention centres such as Abu Salim, where migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, including those intercepted at sea, face systematic abuses including and arbitrary detention, beatings, rape, murder, forced labour and enforced disappearance.
These centres, often controlled and operated by local militias and armed groups, hold abysmal human rights records. The serious denial of basic requirements needed to sustain human life causes severe physical and mental suffering, and poor sanitation and overcrowding often result in the outbreaks of diseases, leading to death.
“This is hard to watch but unfortunately, it is not an isolated incident. Grave human rights violations and crimes amounting to crimes against humanity are committed every day against women, men and children inside and outside of migration detention centres in Libya, with complete impunity,” said Jürgen Schurr, Head of Law at LFJL.
“Libya must comply with its international obligations and guarantee and protect the human rights of all those on its territory, including migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. This includes putting an immediate end to their arbitrary detention, and the investigation and prosecution of those responsible. At the same time, the international community must stop providing support to actors involved in crimes against humanity and human rights violations against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and provide urgently needed assistance and protection to victims.
In this horrifying case of the deceased woman in Abu Salim, LFJL call for an immediate investigation into her death and accountability for those responsible.”