On the one-year anniversary of the military offensive on Tripoli, Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) remembers those who have suffered from the conflict and calls for the respect of the ceasefire, the opening of humanitarian corridors to assist those impacted and accountability for those responsible for violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws.
As we enter the second year of the conflict, it is necessary to reflect on the humanitarian toll this conflict has had on the civilian population. In 2019 alone, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documented at least 284 civilian deaths and 363 injuries. This marks an increase of more than a quarter from the number of casualties recorded during the same period in 2018. The majority of civilian casualties were caused by air strikes. This was followed by ground fighting, explosive devices, abductions and killings. The current conflict has also left thousands of families displaced across Libya. As of February 2020, over 149,000 individuals have been displaced from South Tripoli by this conflict, bringing the total number of internally displaced people in Libya to over 350,000. The number of civilian casualties and displaced families will likely increase as the conflict continued to intensify in the past few weeks.
The confirmation of the first cases of COVID-19 has highlighted the urgency of a ceasefire. UN officials have warned that failing to uphold a truce, which would allow authorities to address the pandemic, could lead to catastrophic results. The continued fighting, despite the pandemic, will have a significant impact on civilians. The request for people to remain at home to limit the spread of the pandemic places them at risk of attack by indiscriminate shelling.
Sadly, despite widespread calls for a ceasefire and many attempts to end the conflict over the year, including the Berlin Peace Process and an initially promising three-track peace process brokered by UNSMIL, the situation in the country is worsening. The parties to the conflict in Libya, both domestic and international, have ignored the UN Secretary General’s call for a global ceasefire in light of the COVID-19 global pandemic. In fact, as international attention turned away and scrutiny on warring parties declined, fighting in Libya intensified. “It is vital that all parties to the conflict, including international meddlers, disengage and allow Libya the chance to address the pandemic and the Libyan people the right to live a dignified life free from war”, said Marwa Mohamed, LFJL’s Head of Advocacy and Outreach.
In the past year, LFJL has been documenting violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Libya and repeatedly called for the establishment of an independent investigative mechanism to investigate such violations and hold those repsonsible to account. LFJL also condemned the repeated breaches to the arms embargo imposed by the United Nations and called for the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to enforce the embargo and sanction those who violate it.
“Despite the effort of many human rights defenders and civil society organisations, geopolitics and economic considerations still trump the right to life and health of the Libyan people”, said Mohamed. “Foreign actors continue to meddle in the conflict, in adamant breach of UNSC resolutions. This has not only fuelled the conflict but has led to greater suffering of the Libyan people”.