Confidential UN Security Council report documents 'possible use of state facilities by armed groups and traffickers'
Most armed groups involved in human smuggling and trafficking in Libya have links to the country's official security institutions, sanctions experts said in a confidential report to a UN Security Council committee seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
People smugglers operating with impunity in Libya have sent hundreds of thousands of migrants to Europe by sea, mainly to Italy, since 2014. Thousands have died during the voyages.
"Armed groups, which were party to larger political-military coalitions, have specialised in illegal smuggling activities, notably human smuggling and trafficking," experts reported to the 15-member Security Council committee. They said most of these armed groups "were nominally affiliated to official security institutions".
The report cited accounts from Eritrean migrants who were arrested in 2016 in Tripoli by agents of a special force affiliated with Libya's interior ministry. The agents handed them over to migrant smugglers "against payment".
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Four Bangladeshi migrants arrested by the Special Deterrence Force (SDF) in Tripoli were held in a government detention centre in 2015 even though they held valid work visas.
The migrants paid $300 each to the SDF and were sent to another Libyan city where they were loaded on boats for Europe "against their will" the report said.
"The panel is assessing whether the SDF's leadership was aware of collusion and trafficking being conducted within its ranks," said the report.
The migrants said the Special Deterrence Force handed them to various smuggling rings.
“The panel is concerned over the possible use of state facilities and state funds by armed groups and traffickers to enhance their control of migration routes," it read.
So far, around 60 percent fewer migrants have crossed from from Libya to Italy compared to last year (AFP)
The SDF denied the allegations. The force "has nothing to do with smuggling" SDF spokesman Ahmad Bin Salem told Reuters in a written statement. "It is fighting illegal immigration and has arrested many smugglers," he said.
International agencies told the sanctions monitors that Libya's Directorate Combating Illegal Migration had no control over its 24 detention centres. Migrants told the UN monitors that local armed groups controlled the centres they stayed in.
So far this year, just over 3,500 migrants are recorded to have crossed from Libya to Italy, about 60 percent fewer than during the same period last year, according to the Italian Interior Ministry.
Libya descended into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 led to the overthrow and killing of Muammar Gaddafi, with two competing governments backed by militias scrambling for control of the oil-producing country.
"Foreign fighters and armed groups, moving in and out of Libya, exploit the uncontrolled proliferation of arms and related material in Libya resulting in regular violations of the (UN) arms embargo," the sanctions monitors said.
Wanted Libyan commander surrenders
A Libyan commander sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over the alleged summary execution of dozens of people has handed himself in to the military police in eastern Libya, a military source said on Wednesday.
It was not clear whether the apparent move would lead to any action being taken against the commander, Mahmoud al-Werfalli, or any restrictions on his movement.
Werfalli is a member of an elite unit of the Libyan National Army (LNA), the dominant force in eastern Libya.
The ICC issued an arrest warrant for Werfalli last August. The same month, the LNA said it had detained Werfalli and was investigating him, but the ICC said it had received subsequent reports that Werfalli was at large and involved in additional killings.
The LNA prevailed in 2017 in a three-year military campaign against militants and other rivals for control of Benghazi. Werfalli is wanted by the ICC for his alleged direct participation in seven incidents in which 33 people were killed during the closing stages of the campaign.