Human rights activists demand investigation into abuse of migrants in Libya

Human rights activists submitted evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Tuesday calling for an investigation into abuses against migrants in Libya traveling across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

Tuesday’s filing came from a coalition that included the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights and Lawyers for Justice in Libya.

The groups wrote that “enslavement, extortion and torture has become an important source of revenue in Libya’s conflict economy." Their report is based on interviews with 14 survivors of abuse who are now safely out of Libya. 

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It names nearly 20 possible suspects, including well-known militia chiefs, and calls for an investigation into “armed groups, militias and Libyan state actors” for crimes including "arbitrary detention, torture, murder, persecution, sexual violence and enslavement."

“The extreme scale, systemic nature, and seriousness of the abuses suffered by migrants and refugees in Libya trigger ICC jurisdiction,” Dorine Llanta of the International Federation for Human Rights said, per The Associated Press, noting that an analysis of information and survivor testimonies “clearly shows that many of these abuses may amount to crimes against humanity.”

The ICC is considered a final resort when countries are not willing or able to prosecute crimes.

“We strongly believe that only the ICC can address the complexity of the criminal system aimed at exploiting the human suffering of the migrants and refugees in Libya," Chantal Meloni, senior legal adviser at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, said, according to the AP.  

In 2019, lawyers called for an ICC investigation into the European Union's migrant policy, the AP reported. That probe stemmed from accusations that officials had responsibility for migrant deaths and were to blame for their rapes and torturous treatment at the hands of Libyan coast guard, which is financed by taxpayers in Europe.