The UN Human Rights Office, represented by spokesperson Marta Hurtado, deemed on Tuesday that Libyan security forces had used “unnecessary and disproportionate” force to detain African migrants when those that had attempted to escape were fatally shot. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) requested an inquiry into the violence perpetrated by government officials, noting that there had been a “perceptible increase in heavy-handed security operations targeting migrants and asylum seekers.”
The Libyan government’s increased security operations occurred in the settlement of Gergaresh, near the nation’s capital, where thousands of migrants and asylum seekers await notice of the outcome of their resettlement procedures. In an attempt to locate suspected criminals and undocumented residents, officials of Libya’s Ministry of Interior raided the settlement, which is commonly used as a pathway for asylum seekers to pass through the country in search of resettlement in the Mediterranean and Europe. They then proceeded to arbitrarily round up and detain over 4,000 people, violently beating, and in some instances killing, those who tried to escape.
The remaining detainees were transferred to a range of detention centres, where they were kept in unsanitary conditions with very little food or water. On more than one occasion, attempts to escape both the Gheriyan detention centre and the al-Mabani centre were met with violence resulting in an unspecified number of fatalities and injuries.
The prolonged period of violence against the migrants has been condemned by humans rights watch groups internationally, with the Norwegian Refugee Council recently urging Libyan authorities to release all arbitrarily detained migrants.
In their press release, the OHCHR warned that, according to recent reports conducted by the Independent Fact Finding Mission on Libya, the widespread violence against migrants may amount to a classification as a crime against humanity. Therefore, in addition to urging the Libyan government to release all arbitrarily released migrants, they advocated for the initiation of impartial and thorough investigations into the reported “unnecessary and disproportionate” uses of force, noting that all victims had the right to access justice and reparations.