By Arab News
Every party to the Libyan conflict in the past five years has broken international humanitarian law, the UN said in a damning report on Monday containing accusations of war crimes, torture of prisoners and crimes against humanity.
The Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, established by the UN Human Rights Council, said Europe-bound migrants faced abuse in detention centers and at the hands of traffickers, and prisoners were tortured in horrific conditions in jail.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that war crimes have been committed in Libya, while violence perpetrated in prisons and against migrants there may amount to crimes against humanity,” said Mohamed Auajjar, who led the three-person panel with human rights experts Chaloka Beyani and Tracy Robinson.
“All parties to the conflict, including third states, foreign fighters and mercenaries, have violated international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of proportionality and distinction, and some have also committed war crimes.”
The mission said it had identified individuals and groups — both Libyan and foreign — who may bear responsibility for the violations, abuses and crimes. The list will remain confidential until appropriate accountability mechanisms are in place.
However, the report reserved specific criticism for the Russian mercenary Wagner Group, which it accused of having shot prisoners in September 2019.
“There are thus reasonable grounds to believe that Wagner personnel may have committed the war crime of murder,” it said.
It also said Wagner forces had left behind a tablet computer with a map showing 35 locations where land mines were planted near civilian buildings, in areas abandoned by retreating eastern forces. The mines, mostly made in Russia, had killed and maimed civilians returning to their homes since June 2020, it said.
Since 2015, Russia has provided military, diplomatic, and financial support to Libya’s eastern-based government in Tobruk and the Libyan National Army led by warlord Khalifa Haftar.
Libya has been torn by conflict since the 2011 toppling and killing of Muammar Qaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising, with rival administrations vying for power.
“The findings unveil a dire human rights situation,”the report said, and civilians had paid a heavy price, notably due to attacks on schools and hospitals.
The UN investigators identified the suspected perpetrator of one of the worst abuses — killings carried out by an armed group in the town of Tarhouna with victims buried in mass graves — as Mohammed Al-Kani, a commander they said was himself killed in July during a raid by the Libyan National Army.
“The scale of the atrocities in Tarhouna demand far more focused attention including forensic investigations,”panel expert Robinson said.