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Statement: human rights violations in migrant detention centers in Libya

In the strongest terms, Amman Center for Human Rights Studies (ACHRS) urges relevant authorities to close detention centers in Libya due to flagrant human rights violations against refugees and migrants.

The ongoing armed conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic pose a significant threat to life in Libya, where the safety, security and health of the entire population are at risk. The situation of many refugees and migrants is extremely alarming with an estimated total of 2,362 individuals detained in migrant detention centers as of June 2020.

COVID-19 worsened the situation in Libya’s dreadful detention centers where refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants endure arbitrary and indefinite detention in dire living conditions. They live in overcrowded hangars with no access to food and proper sanitation facilities. Exposed to COVID-19, they are subjected to countless abuses such as starvation, torture, rape, beatings, physical and psychological abuse. ACHRS expresses great concern regarding the fact that the number of people being held in detention centers has nearly doubled in the last two months, as those rescued at sea are returned to places where they will experience torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.

Despite obvious and well-documented human rights violations, Libya continues to act as a magnet for a large number of migrants who come to work there or travel to Europe. In May 2020, there were nearly 626,000 refugees and migrants in Libya – gender-based violence (GBV), human trafficking, forced labor, extortion and exploitation are widespread.

Following an escalation of the conflict in southern Tripoli, Tarhuna and Sirt in June 2020, many migrants are now caught in the crossfire between the UN-backed government and the opposition forces of general Haftar. In July 2019, an airstrike hit the Tajoura migrant detention center outside Tripoli, killing 53 people and leaving 130 severely wounded. Failure by a party to the conflict to remove detained migrants from the vicinity of a potential military objective is a violation of its obligation under International Humanitarian Law to take all feasible measures to protect civilians under its control from the effects of potential attacks.

ACHRS strongly denounces gross human rights violation perpetrated against refugees and migrants in detention centers in Libya. Such practices amount to serious violations of International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law. Abuse and ill-treatment of refugees and migrants also constitute violations of fundamental rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, including the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment (article 5). ACHRS recalls that the human rights of refugees and migrants must be respected and protected at all times.

ACHRS calls upon UN agencies and countries to investigate and prosecute human rights violations and alleged crimes against humanity in Libya’s migrant detention centers and urges relevant authorities in Libya to close them without delay.

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