In a fresh report, the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya warned that multiple and widespread violations threatened the integrity of the electoral process and efforts to move toward democracy.
“There will be no peace without ending these violations. There will be no democracy without putting an end to impunity,” mission chair Mohamed Auajjar told reporters.
The three-person team pointed to intimidation and harassment of activists, attacks on lawyers and judges, and mass violations against vulnerable groups like migrants, women and detainees.
The experts had already concluded in their first report last October that acts of murder, torture, imprisonment, rape and enforced disappearance in Libya’s prisons may amount to crimes against humanity.
Since then, “we have uncovered further evidence that the human rights violations experienced by detainees in Libya are widespread, systematic or both,” Auajjar added.
The mission’s second report covers the period since last November, coinciding with increased political turmoil in the lead-up to and aftermath of the postponement of hoped-for elections.
Libya was meant to hold elections last December, as part of a U.N.-guided peace process aiming to draw a line under a complex conflict that dates back to the 2011 revolt that toppled and killed dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
But as political factions wrangled over the legal basis and the eligibility of controversial candidates, the polls were postponed indefinitely.
Auajjar said the fact-finding mission, which was created by the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2020, would not comment on political developments in the country.
However, the team had focused heavily on violations and crimes “that can especially hamper Libya’s transition to peace, democracy and the rule of law,” he said.
“In our view, the culture of impunity that is prevailing in different parts of Libya is impeding that transition.”
The experts said they had received “alarming reports of attacks on civil society organizations and activists in Libya.”
The report decried a “public campaign denigrating the work of civil society and a shrinking civic space,” pointing to how “activists are routinely threatened online … and live under the constant fear of abduction, arrest and arbitrary detention.”
And “chilling video recordings of activists ‘confessions’ were posted” on the Tripoli Internal Security Facebook page, it said.
“The mission fears that such ‘confessions’ may have been obtained under duress and are intended to terrorize activists.”
The experts highlighted impunity for attacks against female politicians, including for the enforced disappearance of parliamentarian Seham Sergiwa in 2019, and the 2020 killing of outspoken lawyer and activist Hanan al-Barassi.
This has had a chilling effect on women eager to participate in politics in Libya, the experts said.
“We see the shrinking civic space,” mission member Tracy Robinson told reporters.
And especially, she said, “we see shrinking numbers of women engaged in government.”
Two women had registered in Libya’s elections to run for president, defying norms, sexist jokes and patronizing comments.
The parliament said Dbeibah’s term had expired with the December election date and it has moved to establish a new interim government to oversee a referendum on a temporary constitution and new elections within 14 months. The eastern-based parliament appointed former interior minister Fathi Bashagha as interim prime minister.
Dbeibah said the parliament itself is no longer valid some eight years after it was elected and that its longer schedule for elections is aimed at prolonging its own position of power.
Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh, who like Dbeibah and Bashagha had been a presidential candidate, has since spearheaded efforts to replace the unity government.
Both Bashagha and Dbeibah have the support of rival armed groups in the Libyan capital.
The U.N., Western powers and even some members of parliament have called for Dbeibah to stay in his role until elections, for which a new date has not yet been set.