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Libya: Rights groups demand ICC investigation into treatment of refugees

Rights groups and survivors have requested the ICC investigate 'crimes against humanity' by Libyan state and non-state actors
Migrants sit on the ground after being recaptured by Libyan security forces following an escape attempt from a detention facility in Tripoli, in October 2021 (AFP)

A number of human rights groups on Tuesday filed a dossier of evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) demanding the investigation of crimes against migrants and refugees in Libya that they said amount to "crimes against humanity".

In collaboration with survivors, the groups - the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) - demand that the ICC look into the responsibility of armed groups, militias, and Libyan state actors involved in the abuses, including torture, sexual violence and enslavement, that migrants face. 

The file names 19 potential suspects, including "well-known militia chiefs".

Alongside the communication sent to the ICC, the groups also published a report analysing the findings on the crimes against humanity they sent to the ICC, including firsthand accounts of survivors. 

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The report argues that EU policies have trapped migrants and refugees in Libya and "significantly contribute" to the situation that migrants face.

It added that despite knowledge of the plight of migrants that travel through Libya, “the EU has furthered efforts to externalise its borders and contain migrants there”.

After extensive interviews with 14 survivors, who are now in safe locations outside Libya, the findings of the report found that thousands of migrants and refugees are victims of a “continuous cycle of abuse that is both widespread and systematic”.

They added that the “exploitation through detention, enslavement, extortion and torture has become an important source of revenue in Libya’s conflict economy”.

Dorine Llanta, from the permanent representation of FIDH to the ICC, said: “The extreme scale, systemic nature, and seriousness of the abuses suffered by migrants and refugees in Libya trigger ICC jurisdiction.

“Our analysis of reliable open-source information and survivor testimonies clearly shows that many of these abuses may amount to crimes against humanity.”

International courts 

This report is the latest attempt to have ICC prosecutors investigate the treatment of migrants.

For the past 10 years, the ICC has been investigating the situation in Libya since the Nato-backed uprising against the country’s former leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who was captured and killed in 2011 before having to face the international courts.

The ICC has also filed charges against Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, for two counts of crimes against humanity,  including murder and persecution allegedly committed in the 2011 uprising.

However, al-Islam announced his controversial candidacy earlier this month to run in the country’s presidential election, which will take place in December. 

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