EU supported rights abuse against migrants in Libya: UN

The file photo shows refugees arrested by Libyan authorities on a boat waiting to be deported to a detention center west of Tripoli, May 12, 2022.

The United Nations has warned that the European Union is providing support to organizations perpetrating rights abuse, including systematic torture and sexual slavery, against refugees and migrants in Libya.

The United Nations raised the alarm on Monday in an investigation on the deteriorating human rights situation in Libya, saying the 27-member bloc was facilitating the commission of abuses against migrants in the conflict-torn North African country.

In its final report, the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya concluded that there were "grounds to believe a wide array of war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed by state security forces and armed militia groups."

"Migrants, in particular, have been targeted and there is overwhelming evidence that they have been systematically tortured" in detention centers, it said.

The mission's chairman Mohamed Auajjar said investigators found crimes against humanity had been committed against migrants in detention centers under the control of Libya's Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCMI) and the country's coast guard.

“These entities receive technical, logistic and monetary support from the European Union and its member states" for the interception and return of migrants, Auajjar said.

"We're not saying that the EU and its member states have committed these crimes," investigator Chaloka Beyani told reporters, adding though that "the support given has aided and abetted the commission of the crimes."

Beyani added it was "clear that the DCIM has responsibility for multitudes of crimes against humanity in the detention centers that they run. The support given to them by the EU has facilitated this."

The UN report also stressed that there were reasonable grounds to believe that sexual slavery and crimes against humanity was being committed against migrants.

Mission member Tracy Robinson said they also uncovered slavery in general.

"We have found instances of enslavement of persons who have been traded to outside entities to perform various services, but also sexual slavery of women in and around detention centers," she said.

The investigators voiced concern about the deprivation of liberty of Libyans and migrants throughout the country, in what they said could also amount to crimes against humanity.

They found numerous cases of "arbitrary detention, murder, torture, rape, enslavement, sexual slavery, extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance, confirming their widespread practice in Libya.”

Libya has been beset by violence and chaos since the overthrow and killing of its long-serving ruler Muammar Gaddafi following a bombing campaign by the US-led NATO military alliance in 2011. The resulting chaos and factional divisions then escalated into a regional proxy war fueled by foreign powers, who poured weapons and mercenaries into the country.

Since 2015, Libya has been divided between the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and lawmakers in Tobruk, allied to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.

The Government of National Unity of Libya was supported by countries such as Qatar, Turkey, some European countries and the United Nations, and countries such as Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the UAE also supported the army of Khalifa Haftar, a retired general based in Benghazi and Tobruk.

The two rivals fought for power in the country for several years, and after a year of intense conflict that led to the advances of the government of unity to the capital city of Tripoli, they announced a ceasefire in August 2021.

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