The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has adopted a resolution ordering a “fact-finding mission” to Libya after prosecutors from the International Criminal Court said that mass graves discovered recently may constitute war crimes.
The UNHRC adopted by consensus a resolution strongly condemning all acts of violence in Libya and urging UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet to dispatch a fact-finding mission to the North African country.
This announcement comes after mass graves were discovered in the city of Tarhuna following retreat by eastern-based forces.
The UN resolution expressed concern at reports of “torture, sexual and gender-based violence and harsh conditions in prisons and detention centres.”
The fact-finding mission experts will “document alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by all parties in Libya since the beginning of 2016,” the text said.
Tamim Baiou, Libya’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told the council shortly before the resolution was adopted by consensus that he hoped it would mark “a turning point for a better future for Libya”.
The resolution was put forward in March by a group of African countries, but the Geneva-based body was forced to suspend its main annual session for three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The council’s 43rd session resumed in mid-June after Switzerland relaxed the measures imposed to halt the spread of COVID-19.
Oil-rich Libya has been torn by violence, drawing in tribal militias, jihadists and mercenaries since the 2011 toppling and killing of long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in a Western-backed uprising.
Since 2015, a power struggle has pitted the Tripoli-based and UN-recognised Government of National Accord against Khalifa Haftar, who claims legitimacy from an eastern-based elected parliament.
The head of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa operations Heba Morayef, in a statement said, “We welcome the establishment of the fact-finding mission as an important and long overdue step towards ending the rampant impunity that has for years fuelled by the horrific crimes committed in Libya.”
Hundreds have been killed and some 200,000 people were displaced in Libya since the latest escalation, which began in April 2019, when Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, launched an offensive against Tripoli, the seat of the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).
In recent months, Turkey intensified its support to the GNA and its allied forces, which launched a counter-offensive against Haftar that has reclaimed all of northwestern Libya.
“The establishment of a fact-finding mission into abuses in Libya is a wake-up call to warlords and armed groups that they could be held accountable for serious crimes committed by their rank and file,” Human Rights Watch’s Eric Goldstein said.