Today marks one year since the enforced disappearance of Siham Sergiwa, a prominent Libyan women’s rights defender and member of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR). On 17 July 2019, she was taken from her home in Benghazi by armed men. Her whereabouts remain unknown.
The Libyan authorities must reveal the truth about Siham Sergiwa’s fate, open an independent investigation into her enforced disappearance, and bring those responsible to justice.
Far from being an isolated case,Siham’s Sergiwa’s abduction is symptomatic of the many human rights violations that have become prevalent across the country. Since 2014, the Libyan State,its militias and non-state armed groups have committed numerous abductions,torture and extra-judicial killings of individuals based on their real or perceived political affiliation or human rights activism, leading to a severe narrowing of civic space.
Women in Libya specifically are often subjected to gender-based violence and threats, enforced disappearance,sexual violence, and smear campaigns. The assassination of human rights activist and lawyer Salwa Bugaighis in Benghazi in June 2014 marked the start of a dramatic increase in such attacks and a growing culture of impunity. The failure to investigate human rights violations and hold the perpetrators to account has sent a strong message that criminal acts will go unchecked.
17 July is also the Day of International Criminal Justice, marking the anniversary of the 1998 adoption of the Rome Statute,the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC was established to ensure accountability for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and the crime of aggression. Enforced disappearances, prevalent in Libya, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, may amount to a crime against humanity.
The UN Security Council unanimously referred the situation in Libya to the ICC during the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, granting the court jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes committed in the country. The ICC has public arrest warrants outstanding against three individuals accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya. However, only one of these allegations is non-Gaddafi related despite the long list of atrocities that have become prevalent since the uprising.
The ICC prosecutor’s latest report noted numerous incidents that need to be investigated, including potential indiscriminate attacks that caused civilian deaths, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and crimes against migrants. Yet no action has been taken to hold the perpetrators to account and parties to the conflict continue to commit violations with total impunity. On the Day of International Criminal Justice, it is time to put an end to this.
Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) calls on the ICC to carry out its mandate, investigate ongoing crimes being committed in Libya and hold the perpetrators to account.
For more information on LFJL’s accountability project contact email@example.com