Unforgotten: Enforced Disappearance in Libya

September 22, 2020

The Libyan authorities must end the shocking pattern of enforced disappearances, torture and other ill-treatment taking place across the country, strengthen accountability for these crimes and provide redress to the victims, Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) said in a new report released today.

Militias in Libya frequently target politicians, journalists, activists or members of ethnic minority or tribal groups believed to oppose them, detain them without due process and refuse to acknowledge their whereabouts. While some are later released, the bodies of hundreds of others have been found dumped in the streets, many with bound limbs, marks of torture and gunshot wounds.

“This heinous crime has a devastating impact, victimising not just the disappeared person, but also their families and communities,” said LFJL Director Elham Saudi.

Families often avoid reporting disappearances due to fear of retaliation, leaving them with no access to justice and terrified as to what may have happened to their relatives.

“If the death of a loved one is the worst thing in the world, the enforced disappearance of a loved one is even worse than death,” said Jabir Zain, a human rights defender and women’s rights activist abducted from a Tripoli café in 2016.

On 21 September, the UN Working Groupon Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, an independent expert monitoring body, called on all countries to strengthen cooperation in investigating and prosecuting perpetrators worldwide, and expressed extreme concern regarding an increase in enforced disappearances in Libya being carried out by armed groups across the country with total impunity. Although Libyan laws contain some safeguards, they are not respected or enforced, and require crucial amendments to comply with international standards.

“The authorities in the East and the West must either release all disappeared persons immediately, or if they are believed to have committed a recognisable crime under international law,grant them full access to lawyers and their families and ensure they receive a fair trial, but that is just a start.” Elham Saudi said.

“Disappearances continue to be reported today amid crackdowns on protests over corruption and living standards in several areas of the country. To strengthen accountability for these crimes,the legislative authorities must address these shortcomings by bringing domestic law into line with international standards and must ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance without delay,” she added.

Notes to editors

·       In partnership with REDRESS, LFJL is part of a coalition campaigning to end enforced disappearances in Africa, including the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, MENA Rights Group and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.


·       For more information please contact Tim Molyneux, Lawyers for Justice in Libya’s Strategic Communications Manager, at tim@libyanjustice.org or+44 (0)7400 995648.

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