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ICC wants to investigate human trafficking in Libya

International Criminal Court is considering whether to investigate migrant-related crimes in Libya, calling the country a 'marketplace'
A child and his father look on after being rescued by an NGO off the coast of Libya (AFP)

The International Criminal Court is considering whether to investigate migrant-related crimes in Libya, which has become a "marketplace" for human trafficking, the chief prosecutor said on Monday.

Fatou Bensouda told the UN Security Council that her office was collecting evidence of crimes allegedly committed against migrants attempting to transit through Libya.

Thousands of vulnerable migrants, including women and children, are being held in detention centres across Libya where "crimes, including killings, rapes and torture, are alleged to be commonplace," she said.

Bensouda, a Gambian lawyer and ICC chief prosecutor since 2012, said she was "dismayed by credible accounts that Libya has become a marketplace for the trafficking of human beings".

The ICC prosecution is "carefully examining the feasibility of opening an investigation into migrant-related crimes in Libya," if these cases fall under the court's jurisdiction, she said.

Libya has been in turmoil since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi, its territory controlled by two rival governments backed by rival militias, some of whom have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

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The chaos has been a boon for migrant smugglers and human traffickers who have turned Libya's coast into a key departure point to Europe.

Noting that Libya's overall security has "deteriorated significantly" since last year, Bensouda warned that migrant-smuggling could help organised crime and terror networks expand their hold in the north African country.

The number of people leaving Libya to reach Europe is up nearly 50 percent this year compared with the opening months of 2016.

On Monday, UN agencies reported that 11 migrants died and nearly 200 were missing after two boats sank off the coast of Libya. 

Bensouda said her office was closely following the offensive by forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar in Benghazi after a video emerged showing the Libyan National Army allegedly committing serious crimes such as summary executions of detainees.

Bensouda also urged Libyan authorities to arrest former security chief, Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled, who she said is currently residing in Libya and is wanted for war crimes at the ICC.

A warrant for Khaled's arrest was unsealed in late April.

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