Migrants at Libya's Zawiya detention center | Credit: Zuhair Abusrewil
Migrants at Libya's Zawiya detention center | Credit: Zuhair Abusrewil

In its World Report 2018, Human Rights Watch has said that militias in Libya continue to inflict violence and abuse on local civilians, as well as migrants, due to the reigning impunity in the country.

In Libya, armed groups and forces affiliated with the country's two competing governments "are committing rampant abuses against Libyans and foreigners with impunity," according to the latest World Report 2018 issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The report attempts to bring the spotlight back to the situation that Libyans and migrants in the country are experiencing, where since the outbreak of conflict in May 2014, "armed groups unlawfully killed, disappeared, tortured, forcibly displaced, and arbitrarily detained and kidnapped people, for political, economic, or criminal motives." 

A country without justice

HRW reported that tens of thousands of Libyan citizens remain "internally displaced, while armed groups and criminals exploited and subjected to violence thousands of migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa." 

According to Eric Goldstein, deputy director HRW's Middle East branch, the central Mediterranean migration crisis "shows the rest of the world that it is ignoring Libya's human rights disaster at its own peril." Goldstein believes that "stabilizing the situation in Libya requires establishing some measure of accountability for the rampant abuse being committed by various actors."

In the report, its 28th edition, HRW noted that conflict in the country had led to the central authority's collapse, and that forces tasked with law enforcement "are dysfunctional in most parts of the country, virtually guaranteeing domestic impunity." HRW noted several cases of arbitrary executions in 2017 that were linked to the conflict between the forces from both of the country's competing governments. The report said, "both Libya's justice ministry and various armed groups affiliated with the interior and defense ministries of both governments held thousands of Libyans in long-term arbitrary detention." The report also said that judicial police had reported that only 25 percent of the 6,400 detainees in government facilities have been sentenced. 

Thousands of migrants subjected to violence 

"Militias, smugglers, and guards in detention centers have subjected thousands of migrants and asylum seekers who continue to flock to Libya, to beatings, sexual violence, and forced labor," the report stated. "During interceptions at sea, the Libyan coast guard badly-treated migrants, before sending them to detention centers where conditions were inhumane," it added. 
Internally displaced Libyans, at least 20,000 of whom in Benghazi, are also experiencing hardship at the hands of the forces, who have "prevented them from returning to their homes, accusing whole families of 'terrorism', while subjecting them to abuses including seizing their private property." In Misrata, armed groups "continued to collectively punish 35,000 residents of Tawergha by preventing them from returning to their homes and accusing them of war crimes in 2011, despite a UN-brokered agreement between the parties." 

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