In the first two months of 2016 the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documented 66 civilian casualties (28 deaths and 38 injuries) due to combat and 72 violent deaths of other non-combatants, the majority of which occurred during a suicide bombing in Zliten in January. Among those killed are 5 children, 17 men and 6 women killed, 14 or half of the deaths occurred during fighting in Benghazi.
The noncombatant deaths reported by UNSMIL include “7 executions of Petroleum Facilities Guards, alleged opponents and a police officer in Ben Jawad, Harawa and Sirte; the death of an eleven-year-old boy who had been abducted by an armed group whose body was found with alleged marks of torture in Tripoli; and the death in custody of a man in a facility in al-Zawiya controlled by an armed group. In addition, a major suicide attack on the Coast Guard training academy killed 63 people, mainly cadets who were attending a graduation ceremony.”
UNSMIL added “The figures do not include the deaths of two Serbian diplomats, whose bodies were found following the 19 February air strike by the United States of America in Sabratha as there is still uncertainty as to how these deaths occurred, and investigations are still ongoing.”
UNSMIL also notes two important caveats when considering the numbers. First “The figures do not include those casualties that are not a direct result of hostilities, for example executions after capture, torture or abductions, or casualties caused as an indirect consequence of hostilities.”
Furthermore “The figures are only those that UNSMIL was able to document in the reporting period. They are not likely to be complete and may change as new information emerges about incidents involving civilian casualties that took place during this period.”
In concluding UNSMIL stated to all parties that “All executions of captives must cease and all those captured including fighters must be treated humanely in all circumstances.”
The press release by UNSMIL comes one week after the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published on Thursday February 25, a 95-page report detailing of human rights abuses in Libya since 2014 that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein described as:
“very serious violations and abuses that may, in many cases, amount to war crimes.” adding “One of the most striking elements of this report lies in the complete impunity which continues to prevail in Libya and the systemic failures of the justice system,”
A six-member U.N. team, based in Tunis due to the security situation in Libya, gathered evidence over the course of a year of crimes and abuses committed after January 2014 and found “gross violations of human rights in Libya” from hundreds of victims and witnesses.
The report “describes widespread violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and abuses of human rights, perpetrated by all parties to the conflict in Libya throughout 2014 and 2015.” adding “Violations and abuses have not been limited to one area of Libya or to one actor; OHCHR documented such acts having also been perpetrated by State actors and armed groups, some of which affiliated with Libya Dawn or Operation Dignity.”
The OHCHR report “calls upon the international community to ensure that the International Criminal Court, which has jurisdiction over Libya, has the necessary resources to carry out its investigations and prosecutions.”
Although in doing so the report acknowledges that “The sheer number of allegations of gross violations of international human rights law, serious violations of international humanitarian law and serious abuses of human rights, and the fact that they have been committed by so many different parties in disparate geographical areas, present enormous challenges, in particular in overcoming the prevailing impunity and fostering accountability.” adding “It is however clear that the International Criminal Court is not designed to address, and will never be able to pursue, such a large number of cases relating to crimes under international law arising in Libya.”
The report also cited the work of two other UN agencies whose work highlights the dire humanitarian toll the conflict has taken on Libyan civilians.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as at September 2015, 1.9 million people in Libya required essential humanitarian aid in order to meet basic health-care needs.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, food insecurity affects some 1.2 million people in Libya.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein expressed his appreciation to the Government of Tunisia for hosting the team in Tunis.