| Dec 12, 2023
Calls for accountability echo throughout Libya
Dam collapse devastates thousands
The last few months have been a tough time for many communities in Libya, most especially in eastern Libya, where massive floods, caused by the collapse of two dams to the north of Derna devastated communities. Derna’s crisis committee stated that the death toll is over 20,000, which is equivalent to a fifth of the city's population. Migrant and refugee communities were particularly vulnerable during the floods. Throughout Libya, migrants and refugees often fall victim to trafficking and exploitation. Due to their ‘irregular’ status in the country, the majority of migrants and refugees in Libya remain undocumented. Consequently, tracking or obtaining any statistics on the migrant and refugee population in eastern Libya in the wake of the floods was not possible – making the provision of any humanitarian support and aid even more difficult. The Derna Crisis Committee estimated that there were around 6,000 migrants and refugees in the city when Storm Daniel hit. However, the numbers of migrants and refugees who died are still not known. Three months on, this lack of any information and tracing means that families are still unaware of the fate or whereabouts of their relatives. We urge Libyan authorities, where possible, to carry out the tracing and identification of migrants and refugees who still remain missing.
The catastrophe in Derna highlights the essential need for the Libyan authorities to end the criminalisation of entry, stay and exit of migrants and refugees in Libya and ensure they can be registered by the Libyan authorities or relevant agencies, including IOM and UNHCR.
ICC announces aim to close investigations while situation still dire
Since our last Project Report in August, the situation of migrants and refugees across Libya remains dire. In August, LFJL responded to distressing and graphic footage of a woman lying dead on the floor of the Abu Salim migration detention centre which was released by The Guardian. This detention centre is under the authority of the Department for Combating Illegal Immigration (DCIM), Ministry of Interior in Tripoli, Libya. This footage, verified by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), illustrates the patterns of severe human rights violations and international crimes, including murder and torture, that are routinely committed within migration detention centres in Libya.
In early November, during his briefing to the UN Security Council the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan announced his aim to complete all investigative activities in Libya by the end of 2025. This is a worrying development, especially in the context of the ongoing obstacles and challenges currently facing the ICC and the lack of cooperation by the Libyan authorities. With the lack of progress towards accountability and justice for victims of international crimes in Libya since 2011, this announcement from the Prosecutor poses a further risk of diminishing victims’ trust in the ICC’s work. In his briefing, the Prosecutor did not provide any further updates on the recent arrest warrants against suspects allegedly involved in international crimes in Libya, which remain under seal. Nevertheless, there have been some positive movements in regard to the ICC’s work on the prosecution of crimes committed against refugees and migrants, with the assignment of human trafficking experts to the investigation of these crimes.
Strengthening efforts towards accountability and justice
In November, LFJL and REDRESS filed a complaint to the UN on behalf of an Eritrean migrant who was in Libya. This joint submission further consolidates the severe violations highlighted in the Fact-Finding Mission’s report faced by many migrants and refugees in Libya, including enforced disappearance, enslavement and torture. Additionally, LFJL has been working on other specific cases and advocating for the evacuation and resettlement by the UNHCR of a number of individuals who are refugees and victims of trafficking.
LFJL continues to follow the cases within Dutch courts against the suspected traffickers accused of committing severe crimes against migrants and refugees within Libya, specifically within the trafficking hub of Bani Walid in northeast Libya. Our legal team are continuing to examine the routes on widening the scope for the current charges, especially to include crimes against humanity.
Members of our legal team will also be attending and participating in this year’s Global Refugee Forum in December, with a focus on refugee protection.
Additionally, as part of LFJL’s podcast, Libya Matters, we recently released a special video on crimes against humanity committed against migrants and refugees in Libya, for our “LFJL Explains” series.
This December, LFJL will be attending the 22nd session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute of the ICC. This ASP comes at a critical period on the Court’s work on Libya and accountability – with the Prosecutor’s recent announcement and the lack of progress since the Office of the Prosecutor laid out their roadmap in 2022. Members of our team will be engaging with representatives of the Court and states parties, aiming to put forward LFJL’s recommendations for the ICC’s work in Libya. We will continue to urge for an ICC investigation into the crimes committed against migrants and refugees in Libya, alongside a comprehensive approach from third states to ensure crimes against humanity prosecutions.
LFJL will also mark International Migrants Day on 18 December by reflecting on the situation for migrants and refugees in Libya throughout 2023 and reiterating our calls to protect their rights and safety.
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