Targeting of civilians in Libya: LFJL calls for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate

November 25, 2019

On Monday 18 November, at least ten civilians were killed, including five migrant workers, and more than 35 injured, in an airstrike on a biscuit factory in Wadi Al Rabie, south Tripoli. “This is a clear indication of the complete disregard for international humanitarian law and its fundamental principles in the current conflict” said Marwa Mohamed, Head of Advocacy and Outreach at Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL). “It is precisely due to this ongoing disregard that Libya needs a body such as a Commission of Inquiry (COI) that can investigate and identify the perpetrators of these crimes and hold them accountable.”

This is not the first time that the war has attacked civilians and civilian objects, either deliberately or not. In fact, since the launch of the offensive on Tripoli on 4 April 2019, over 200 civilians have been killed and more than 128,000 individuals have been forced to flee their homes.

Mitiga Airport,Tripoli’s only functioning airport at the time and a lifeline to transferring much needed humanitarian assistance into the city, has been systematically targeted, causing damage to the airport and aircrafts, eventually forcing its permanent shutdown. While medical personnel and health facilities, including hospitals, ambulances and paramedics alike, have also been subject to regular targeting.

On 8 May, three  health workers were reported as inured as a result of an attack against an ambulance in the Qasr bin Ghashir neighbourhood in Tripoli. On 23 May, two healthcare workers were killed and three wounded in attacks on two ambulances in Tripoli.On 7 June, according to a statement from the World Health Organisation two field hospitals were struck by shelling, one based in Swani, the other based in Ain Zara. There have been over sixty attacks on healthcare facilities, including personnel since the start of the offensive in April, according to UNSMIL.

The involvement of international actors has fuelled the conflict further, with several states acting in direct violation of the arms embargo that prohibits the export, selling, supplying and transferring of military goods to or from Libya. In his statement to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on 18 November 2019, UN special envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame acknowledged the breach of the arms embargo that in turn is sustaining the conflict. “It is in the interests of all Libyans to reject outside interference in their country’s affairs, and I look to them for their support in calling for external actors to adhere to the arms embargo and commit tangibly to ending the conflict on the ground, before it’s too late,” he commented. These clear violations must stop and all breaches to date investigated. The international community must work to bring an end to international crimes being committed on the ground, while examining possible legal complicity of involved states in the crimes committed.

“It is a disgrace that the international community continues to sit idle and bear witness to the blatant disregard for international human rights and international humanitarian law,” said Mohamed. “Instead of actively using the tools in its hands to end impunity they choose to ignore the consequences and fuel the war", she added.  

LFJL reminds the parties responsible for the airstrikes, and all parties to the conflict, of their legal obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law. Failing to protect civilians and deliberately targeting schools, hospitals, ambulances and medical personnel as well as civil aviation can constitute crimes under international law.

LFJL calls on the international community to facilitate the work of the International Criminal Court, whose jurisdiction in Libya continues to be applicable to the ongoing international humanitarian and human rights law violations, including by providing the Court with sufficient financial support and cooperation. In addition, the Court must use its mandate in Libya to investigate and prosecute perpetrators, including foreign actors, whose actions could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity. To this day, the Court’s efficacy in achieving justice for victims has sadly been very limited.

The ongoing disregard for any international legal obligation is also a clear indication that Libya needs a body that can investigate and identify the perpetrators of these crimes to hold those responsible accountable. “The international community should support the establishment of an independent Commission of Inquiry to document violations and abuses,identify those responsible and preserve evidence for use in future criminal proceedings and to report publicly on the human rights situation in Libya, as advised by the 42nd Session of the Human Rights Council, must be implemented,” concluded Mohamed.

For more information or for requesting an interview, please contact:

Linda Patumi, Communications Officer: +44 (0)20 7609 6734 -

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