UN experts* expressed serious concern about the situation of migrants and refugees in Libya who were allegedly held captive and tortured, subsequently released by Libyan authorities and transferred to unknown places of detention, where they are reportedly at risk of further serious human rights violations, including acts tantamount to enforced disappearance.
“This is not an isolated incident, and we are very concerned about the situation of many more migrants and refugees, including victims of trafficking, who have also been transferred to detention centres where no humanitarian agencies, lawyers or civil society organisations have been granted access,” the UN experts said.
They expressed concern (https://apo-opa.info/44y3Sxq) to Libya about the situation of 120 migrants and refugees allegedly released by the Libyan Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) from a warehouse in Tazirbu in February 2023. The freed migrants and refugees, including possible victims of trafficking, were then reportedly taken to an undisclosed location, and in circumstances that might meet the threshold of enforced disappearance. They allegedly continued to be detained without access to lawyers, assistance, or protection.
An estimated 700 people have been allegedly released and transferred to detention centres after being held captive and tortured for ransom in various locations in Tazirbu, South-East Libya, over the past two years.
“We are troubled by the Libyan authorities’ delay in responding to concerns about trafficking in migrants and refugees and other serious human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and sexual violence,” the experts said.
Migrants and refugees, including victims of trafficking, were reportedly taken by suspected traffickers from the border with Sudan to locations in Tazirbu, where they were detained and subjected to serious human rights violations, including torture, forced starvation and sexual violence. Videos of torture and other abuses were reportedly sent to the victims’ families asking for ransom. Graveyards containing the remains of at least 20 migrants and refugees who were victims of torture have reportedly been found.
“Detention based solely on migration status may amount to torture, particularly if it is intentionally used or maintained for purposes such as deterring, intimidating or punishing irregular migrants or their families,” the experts said, echoing the Committee against Torture.
“Repatriation to Sudan by the Libyan authorities raises serious concerns regarding violations of the non-refoulement principle and failing to protect refugees and migrants from further serious human rights violations,” the experts said. “Some of those returned may also have been victims of trafficking and are at serious risk of being re-trafficked.”
The UN experts also expressed concern that investigations into detention abuses were limited.
“Despite the known involvement of at least one Libyan national, reportedly only non-Libyan nationals have been arrested for alleged involvement in detention abuses,” they said. “We are seriously concerned by reports of complicity by the Libyan authorities and the failure to conduct effective investigations to ensure accountability for these serious human rights violations and access to justice and remedies for victims.”
Concerns in relation to human trafficking in Libya were previously raised by the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya in its report (https://apo-opa.info/3O1aIo2) to the Human Rights Council in March 2023.
The experts have raised these issues with the Government of Libya without any response to date.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).