Human Rights Watch has criticised the International Criminal Court for failing to launch new investigations into war crimes alleged to have taken place in Libya. In its World Report 2017, HRW has accused militias affiliated to rival Libyan governments of engaging in a variety of human rights abuses which the ICC should be investigating.
“Abuses by armed groups in Libya have gone unchecked for the past five years as warlords grow stronger, while conditions for ordinary civilians deteriorate,” said Eric Goldstein, HRW’s deputy Middle East director.
The ICC last issued indictments against former Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi, Seif Al-Islam Qaddafi and Abdullah Senussi five years ago. According to ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, who was present at the UN Security Council last November, the ICC has always intended to open fresh investigations in 2017 as new evidence was gathered. She had previously blamed the limited progress on a lack of resources and the continued instability in Libya and called for collaboration between local and international powers to bring criminals to justice. The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has published a monthly report detailing civilian causalities during the course of hostilities despite the difficulty in gathering data.
HRW argues that the militias continue “to flout international law with impunity” by their actions, including unlawful killings, abductions and indiscriminate shelling. The armed forces and prison authorities, it says, continue to detain and torture thousands of people arbitrarily, including women and children.
The HRW report also criticises Libya’s domestic criminal justice system, which frequently does not function in some parts of the country. The rights group also condemns the lack of authority, along with the ICC, to hold people to account.
Whilst commenting on the continued fighting between Islamist militants and Libyan National Army (LNA) forces allied to General Khalifa Haftar, HRW was critical of the several hundred civilians in the Ganfouda neighbourhood who remain trapped under aerial bombardment with limited access to food and medical care.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has also issued a statement condemning the continued detainment and alleged torture of activist Jabir Zain by a Tripoli-based militia. According to Amnesty, a militia group, allegedly operating under the interior ministry, has held Zain since his abduction in September last year at a café in a suburb of the nominal capital city. The militia group accuse him of atheism, moral indecency and collaborating with foreign NGOs, among other charges. His family have been regularly denied the opportunity of visiting him by the group.