While conducting a Fact-Finding Mission in Libya, investigators from the U.N. say they have uncovered evidence of war crimes committed since 2016.The individuals conducted interviews, reviewed documents, and researched in Libya under the project created by the Human Rights Council in 2020.
A wide range of crimes were unveiled from violence against citizens, recruitment of child soldiers, mass killings, and torture that were all published in the report.
The conflict in Libya ran from 2011-2020 between forces backing rival governments across the State that had support from mercenaries, foreign fighters, and regional powers. The report highlighted a group of mercenaries from Wagner, a Russian security firm, where it is believed they committed the war crime of murder while shooting prisoners.
Mohamed Auajjar, a Moroccan Politician, served as an ambassador of the Kingdom of Morocco and chaired the three-person mission in Libya. He stated that “All parties to the conflicts, including third states, foreign fighters and mercenaries, have violated international humanitarian law, in particular, the principles of proportionality and distinction, and some have also committed war crimes.”
The Wagner company at the center of these allegations, is unable to be reached by news agencies such as Reuters. When asked in 2020 about Russian mercenary activity in Libya, President Vladimir Putin stated that if any Russians were fighting there they did not represent the Russian state.
Evidence for war crimes in Libya have been found across the nation especially targeting vulnerable populations. According to the Human Rights Council, their report documented the recruitment and participation of children in hostilities, killings and sexual violence against prominent women figures, and violence against vulnerable populations including LGBTQI persons.
It was also found that attacks were conducted on hospitals and schools and that migrants and detainees were particularly exposed to violations. According to Reuters, investigators found that Wagner personnel left behind a tablet with a map showing land mines that had been placed near civilian buildings killing individuals since June 2020.
The findings from the U.N. report are incredibly alarming as war crimes are a major violation of international law. These events raise urgent questions and concerns as these types of crimes, and specifically crimes against humanity, are not tolerated.
Libya has been characterized by violence and turmoil for the last decade with Russia, Egypt, and the UAE backing forces in the East and Turkey backing forces in the West. According to Reuters, much of Libya has been dominated by a myriad of armed groups battling for territorial control.
Amid the instability and violence during the civil war, investigators said there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that war crimes were committed in Libya and these may have amounted to crimes against humanity. Civilians endured suffering from the effects of war in essentially all aspects of their life including violence against them and constant worry over family.
Active combat in Libya had been paused since 2020 as all sides accepted a ceasefire and an interim government until an election can be held later this year. According to the United Nations, Libya assured the Council of Libya’s political will that it will promote human rights and that they would cooperate with the Mission in hopes of helping the current Libyan political state. Libya’s efforts include deterring all forms of violence through the creation of a unified government.
The U.N.’s Fact-Finding Mission proved to be critical in understanding the conflict in Libya and revealing the disturbing war crimes being committed. It is hopeful that the U.N. is working with the nation and other entities to address and manage these violations.