Libya: Thousands of Detainees are Held in Inhuman Conditions in Militia-Run Prisons

The United Nations documents in a report submitted to the Security Council that there are more than 12,000 detainees in Libya, and that refugees and migrants have been subjected to rape, sexual harassment and human trafficking.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres revealed that there are more than 12,000 official detainees in 27 prisons and detention facilities in Libya, while thousands are also being held illegally in “inhumane conditions” inside facilities controlled by armed groups, or inside “secret” facilities. He called for the need to withdraw mercenaries and foreign forces and to expedite the holding of the Libyan elections.

In his report to the Security Council and published by the Associated Press, Guterres indicated that the United Nations political mission in Libya continues to document cases of arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, and other violations of international law in facilities run by the government and other groups.

He stated that thousands of detainees who do not appear in the official statistics provided by the Libyan authorities, which show more than 12,000 detainees, are unable to challenge the legal grounds for their detention.

Guterres expressed his concern for the conditions of refugees and migrants, both female and male, due to the risks of being subjected to rape, sexual harassment and human trafficking.

“Migrants and refugees, both female and male, continue to face increased risks of rape, sexual harassment, and human trafficking at the hands of armed groups, as well as officials of the Libyan Anti-Illegal Migration Authority, which is under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior,” Guterres said in the report.

The Secretary-General confirmed that the United Nations Support Mission in Libya documented cases in Mitiga prison and several detention centers run by the Anti-Illegal Migration Authority in Zawiya, and in and around the capital, Tripoli.

“The mission received reliable information about human trafficking and sexual abuse of about 30 Nigerian women and children,” he added.

Oil-rich Libya plunged into chaos after the overthrow of late leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and has emerged as a major transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East to Europe.

Smugglers took advantage of this chaos, as they smuggle migrants in rickety rubber or wooden boats that make their way across the Mediterranean to Europe, on perilous journeys.

In the same report he submitted to the Security Council, Guterres called on the Libyan parties to “work together” to hold “inclusive and credible elections as soon as possible,” stressing the need for the “complete withdrawal” of mercenaries and foreign forces.

“The 2.8 million Libyans who have registered to vote must be commended and their wishes must be respected,” Antonio Guterres wrote in the as-yet-unpublished report.

“It is imperative that all Libyan stakeholders unequivocally commit and remain focused on holding free, fair, inclusive and credible presidential and parliamentary elections as soon as possible,” the UN official added.

The presidential and legislative elections were postponed indefinitely due to differences between official institutions, as the title of these disputes was declared “The Election Law and the Role of the Judiciary in the Merit.”

Guterres stressed that “the competent Libyan authorities and institutions must work together now to solve the basic problems that led to the postponement of the elections … and create the necessary political and security conditions for holding the presidential and parliamentary elections without further delay.”

“I call on them to work together, in accordance with the laws in force and the rules and procedures in force in their institutions,” in order to hold elections “in a safe and peaceful environment, with the full, equal and meaningful participation of women and youth,” he added.

In his report, Guterres also called for “the continuation of the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, with a complete withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces” deployed in Libya, and the United Nations estimates their total number at more than 20,000.

Guterres noted in his document that “the competition between armed groups for control of territory, has continued to affect security in Tripoli and in the cities of the northwest” in recent months. He also pointed out that “the presence of mercenaries continues to play a destabilizing role in the south.”

This UN demand comes as the Libyan House of Representatives continues its second consecutive session to hear the briefing of the Road Map Committee and take its decision regarding the government.

The session takes place amid the increasing popular voices calling for the dismissal of the caretaker government for several reasons, including “corruption issues involving officials and ministers”, in addition to the recent army salary crisis, and setting a new date for elections in the country.

The United Nations is leading serious efforts undertaken by the Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Libya, Stephanie Williams, passing through Tunisia, Algeria and Turkey, where her last stop was Cairo, before leaving for Moscow.

During those meetings, the UN envoy reiterated that the solution in Libya cannot be through another transitional government, but rather by holding elections, in reference to the attempt of some members of the House of Representatives to exclude the current government, and to form another alternative, to manage the next phase until the constitutional entitlement.

She called on the Libyan parliament to deal with force majeure announced by the Electoral Commission, noting that the road map is still valid, and that elections can be held before next June. She stressed that Libya has been going through a transitional phase since 2011, and it needs permanent, democratically elected institutions.

Al Arab

Translation by Internationalist 360°