[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] on Tuesday condemned [press release] extremists for the beheading of 21 Coptic Christian men in Libya, characterizing the acts as “vile crime[s] targeting people on the basis of their religion.” The Egyptian Christians were abducted from the Libyan city of Sirte in two separate incidents [CNN report] in December and January. A video released on Sunday showed members of the self-described Tripoli Province of Islamic State (IS) [JURIST backgrounder] beheading the captives on a beach in Libya. The High Commissioner indicated that murdering captives and hostages is against International as well as Islamic law, and urged Libyans to unite against extremists.
Libya remains politically unstable nearly four years after the 2011 uprising [JURIST backgrounder] and subsequent civil war that deposed Muammar Gaddafi. In December the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) [official websites] released a joint report [JURIST report] describing civilian populations in Libya being subjected to shelling, abduction, torture, execution and deliberate destruction of property. High Commissioner Hussein attributed the potential war crimes to a feud between two Libyan governments and several military groups. In November Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda [official profile] warned that increasing violence and political instability in Libya are impeding measures to end impunity [JURIST report]. Earlier that 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.