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UN warns of human rights violations in Libya

[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Office and the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) [official websites] on Monday released a joint report [text, PDF] describing civilian populations in Libya being subjected to shelling, abduction, torture, execution and deliberate destruction of property. In a press release [text] accompanying the report, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein [official profile] attributed the potential war crimes to a feud between two Libyan governments and several military groups. The fighting, which has become worse since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi [NYT backgrounder], has displaced somewhere around 200,000 civilians across the nation in recent months. Zeid warned, "[a]s a commander of an armed group, you are criminally liable under international law if you commit or order the commission of grave human rights abuses or fail to take reasonable and necessary measures to prevent or punish their commission."

Libya remains politically unstable more than three years after the 2011 uprising [JURIST backgrounder] and subsequent civil war that deposed Gaddafi. In November Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, warned [JURIST report] that increasing violence and political instability in Libya are impeding measures to end impunity. Earlier in the month the Supreme Court in Libya declared the UN-backed elected parliament unconstitutional [JURIST report]. In October Amnesty International released a report accusing rival militias in Libya of committing serious human rights abuses [JURIST report], including war crimes. In the same month Libyan militant Ahmed Abu Khatallah pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to 17 charges related to the September 2012 attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, including some charges that warrant the death penalty. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned [JURIST report] the targeted attacks on human rights groups and activists by armed groups in Libya.

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