UN deeply concerned over spate of abductions by armed groups in Libya

Special mission to Libya criticised the 'total impunity' in which militias operated

FILE PHOTO: Members of Libyan National Army (LNA) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, get ready before heading out of Benghazi to reinforce the troops advancing to Tripoli, in Benghazi, Libya April 13, 2019. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori/File Photo
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The United Nations has condemned the “total impunity” with which Libya’s various armed groups operate as it expressed its “deep concerns” over a recent spate of abductions linked the country’s warring militias.

The UN’s special mission to Libya (UNSMIL) said it “renews its call for the full respect of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by parties to this conflict”.

Last April forced loyal to eastern commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar clashed in western Libya including the capital Tripoli with armed groups based in the area that is nominally controlled by the rival Government of National Accord (GNA).

UNSMIL said since last April it had received widespread reports of enforced disappearances on both sides of the conflict.

The mission said it had received “dozens” of reports of the abduction and torture of activists, journalists, migrants and state officials by two armed groups in Tripoli that are opposed to the Field Marshal’s Libyan National Army. The two factions, the Nawasi brigade and the Special Deterrence Force, have been incorporated into the security apparatus in Tripoli.

It highlighted the repeated abduction of a  well-known airline executive then running one of the country's main carriers. "The Afriqiyah airlines General Manager was abducted on 1 March in Tripoli by the Special Deterrence Force (SDF) and was released on 5 March but abducted again two days later by the SDF," it said.

“UNSMIL recalls that torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings are a violation of international law, the Constitutional Declaration of 2011, domestic applicable law and, depending on the precise circumstances, may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the mission said.

“UNSMIL also calls for the establishment of an investigative mechanism by the UN Human Rights Council, as the simplest and strongest basis for promoting accountability in Libya,” it added.

The special mission said it had received “reports of hundreds of enforced disappearances, torture, killings and displacement of entire families” in Tarhouna, 65 kilometres south-east of Tripoli.

The town, which is under the control of the LNA, has become an important staging post for the assault of Tripoli. UNSMIL blamed the human rights abuses on the local 9th Brigade, informally known as the Kaniyat in reference to the family names of its leaders, which largely operates with little oversight.

“In particular UNSMIL verified numerous summary executions at Tarhuna prison on 13 September by the 9th Brigade,” UNSMIL said.

It also condemned the abduction of MP Suham Sergewa last year in the eastern city of Benghazi. Her whereabouts are unknown.