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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN LIBYA

Meeting Summaries

 

Concludes Interactive Discussion on the Human Rights Situation in Ukraine and Begins High-level Interactive Dialogue on the Human Rights Situation in the Central African Republic

 

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Libya, after concluding its interactive discussion on the situation of human rights in Ukraine. The Council then began a high-level interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic.

Nada Al-Nashif, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the offensive launched on 4 April 2019 by the Libyan National Army under the command of General Haftar and subsequent fighting had resulted in a serious deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in Libya. A million people were now in need of humanitarian assistance. In its report, the Office of the High Commissioner called on the Human Rights Council to establish an international investigative body into human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in Libya.

Stephanie Turco Williams, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, providing an oral update, said that, following the commencement of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces offensive on Tripoli on 4 April 2019, the Support Mission had witnessed an alarming military build-up as a result of the uninterrupted dispatch by the foreign backers of increasingly sophisticated and lethal weapons. Once more, civilians in Libya continued to suffer disproportionately. With the need for concrete deliverables in mind, she agreed that a Human Rights Council mandate to establish an investigative mechanism would be both the simplest and strongest basis for promoting much needed accountability in Libya.

Libya, speaking as the concerned country, said the crimes related to the offensive against the capital could not be accepted, including those that had taken place in Tarhouna. Libya was calling for the creation of an investigation mechanism, one that was independent, to combat impunity and install stability throughout Libya.

In the discussion on Libya, speakers called on all parties to the conflict to respect the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, expressing shock at the discovery of eight mass graves in Tarhuna. Women and children were disproportionately affected by the conflict, and speakers condemned attacks on human rights defenders, journalists, schools and healthcare facilities. Recent developments including reported mass graves further demonstrated the urgent need for the Council to establish an independent international investigation on Libya. Several speakers encouraged the Council to adopt a resolution to that end.

Speaking on Libya were the European Union, Iceland on behalf of a group of countries, Burkina Faso on behalf of the African Group, Germany, UN Women, United Nations Children’s Fund, Qatar, Estonia, Australia, Switzerland, Iraq, Bahrain, France, Italy, Jordan, Netherlands, Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, Russian Federation, Spain (video message), Turkey, Indonesia, Malta, Yemen, China, Belgium, United Kingdom, Mauritania, Austria, Algeria, South Sudan, Iran and Cyprus.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Human Rights Watch, Institut International pour les Droits et le Développement, Organisation internationale pour les pays les moins avancés, Amnesty International (video message), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Information and Training Centre, Institute for NGO Research (video message), Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health, Maat for Peace, and Development and Human Rights Association (video message).

At the end of the meeting, the Council began a high-level interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic.

Nada Al-Nashif, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, commended the positive developments linked to the February 2019 Peace Agreement, notably progress in formally establishing the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission through legislation adopted in February 2020. She also noted with concern that attacks on civilians and other human rights violations and abuses in the Central African Republic remained commonplace, including 634 incidents between September 2019 and May 2020.

Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said that at least 80 per cent of 446 violations in 2019 were attributed to armed groups. Violations had increased since January 2020 due to a series of attacks in Ndele, some of which deliberately targeted civilians. The integration of certain leaders of armed groups into State bodies by the Government, in accordance with its commitments under the Peace Agreement, was welcomed.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Ukraine. The dialogue started in the previous meeting and a summary can be found here .

In the discussion on Ukraine, speakers said they remained seriously concerned about the absence of meaningful improvement in the overall human rights situation in areas of eastern Ukraine not controlled by the Government of Ukraine, and in the illegally annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. The continued arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees in the territories controlled by the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine was worrying.

Speaking were Bulgaria, Albania, Sweden (video message), Norway, Georgia, Belgium, Poland, Romania (video message), Iceland, Slovakia, Finland, Slovenia, Republic of Moldova, Germany and Spain (video message).

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Minority Rights Group, Human Rights House Foundation, Institute for NGO Research (video message) and United Nations Watch.

In a point of order at the beginning of the meeting, Ukraine protested against a provocation of the Russian Federation in the previous meeting where the speaker in a video statement made in the name of Russia was a representative of the Russian occupation administration of Crimea. This should have been forbidden.

The Vice-President of the Council said that the person who spoke in the video message on behalf of the Russian Federation this morning was accredited as a representative of the Russian Federation for the forty-third session of the Human Rights Council. Any issue relating to this matter should be channeled through the Credentials Committee of the General Assembly.

The meetings of the forty-third regular session of the Human Rights Council can be followed on the webcast of UN Web TV .

The Council will meet again on Friday, 19 June at 10 a.m. to conclude the high-level

Interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic.

It will then hear the High Commissioner for Human Rights present her report on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan. She will also present an oral update on technical assistance and capacity building provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and United Nations agencies in the area of human rights. This will be followed by the presentation of the report by the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the field of human rights, followed by a general debate on technical assistance and capacity building.

Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in Ukraine

The interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Ukraine started in the previous meeting and a summary can be found here .

Speakers remained seriously concerned about the absence of meaningful improvement in the overall human rights situation in areas of eastern Ukraine not controlled by the government of Ukraine, and in the illegally annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. The continued arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees in the territories controlled by the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine was worrying. Speakers urged the abolition of restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms of all inhabitants of the illegally annexed Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. The situation of civilians deprived of their liberty by armed groups in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk was deplorable. The events that took place in Luhansk in February 2020 showed the difficulty of transforming promises to respect the cease-fire into concrete actions on the ground. Speakers drew attention to the severe situation of the Crimean Tatars in the Bakhchysarai district. They regretted the lack of implementation of the Minsk Agreements and of the measures agreed at the Normandy Summit last year. Some speakers underlined the Russian Federation’s responsibility in this regard.

Some speakers encouraged Ukrainian authorities to continue to work on the draft legislation on remedy and reparation to civilian victims of the conflict with respect to the relevant set of principles outlined by international humanitarian law. Despite the recent prisoner exchange, speakers remained concerned about the stalemate in the political dialogue aiming at conflict resolution in eastern Ukraine. Some speakers were alarmed about the persecution of indigenous Crimean Tatars and ethnic Ukrainians. They expressed deep concern about the fate of political prisoners such as Oleg Pryhodko, Server Mustafayev, Enver Seytosmanov, Yashar Muedinov and many others. Speakers asked what the Deputy High Commissioner’s assessment of the conditions of detention in Ukraine was. Some speakers said that the Ukrainian authorities had systematically failed to bring to justice people who perpetrated violations of Roma’s human rights. Given that the Council claimed to be concerned about the situation in Ukraine, it was surprising that it had failed to take action. It had not published a list of businesses operating north of the 1949 armistice lines. Some speakers asked if the Council was too narrowly focused on Israel to adequately address the situation in Ukraine. Other speakers noted that Moscow’s repressive action in Crimea made it ill-suited to be part of the Human Rights Council.

Concluding Remarks by the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

NADA AL-NASHIF, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said there had been no improvement in access in the last year. The Office of the High Commissioner had requested access in January, to which the Russian Federation had responded by expressing its “principle non-acceptance” of the General Assembly resolutions on Crimea. Regarding the impact of COVID-19, the human rights impact of restrictions on movement were of great concern, notably because they affected the enjoyment of several social and economic rights. The Office of the High Commissioner remained concerned that prevention measures were not being implemented in places of detention, even if this concern was based on uncorroborated reports. This only highlighted the need for independent international monitors to have access to places of detention in territories controlled by the self-proclaimed republics.

Interactive Dialogue on the Human Rights Situation in Libya

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of human rights in Libya, and the effectiveness of technical assistance and capacity-building measures received by the Government of Libya (A/HRC/43/75).

Presentation of the Report by the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

NADA AL-NASHIF, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking on behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the offensive launched on 4 April 2019 by the Libyan National Army under the command of General Haftar and subsequent fighting had resulted in a serious deterioration in the human rights and humanitarian situation in Libya. A million people were now in need of humanitarian assistance and since the attack on Tripoli started, 225,000 people had been forced to flee their homes, mostly in and around the capital. The Office of the High Commissioner reiterated its call for an immediate ceasefire. Ending the fighting and returning to the political track was the only way to save lives and to end civilian suffering in Libya. The Office remained gravely concerned about the very heavy toll of the conflict on civilians. Between 1 January and 31 December 2019, at least 656 civilian casualties had been recorded by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, including 287 deaths and 369 injured. Summary executions and other unlawful killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, incitement to violence on social media, torture and ill-treatment, as well as gender-based violence, including conflict-related sexual violence, continued to be committed in a climate of complete impunity. Human rights defenders, activists and journalists continued to be attacked and were fleeing the country.

In 2019, more than 9,000 migrants and refugees had been intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard, and at least 4,000 since early 2020 to date. The majority of those disembarked in Libya continued to be brought to detention centres often located in close proximity to the fighting and in compounds controlled by armed groups. The Office of the High Commissioner had repeatedly stated that Libya could not be considered a safe port for disembarkation and that migrant boats should not be returned to Libya, in respect of Member States’ search and rescue obligations, as well as their international human rights law obligations. Effectively addressing the widespread impunity for human rights violations and abuses committed in Libya was not only an obligation but could also serve as a deterrent to prevent possible further violations and contribute to peace and stability in the country. The discovery of eight mass graves in Tarhouna last week was extremely shocking. The Office was calling for a prompt, thorough, effective, transparent, and independent investigation to establish the facts and circumstances of human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by all parties in Libya. In its report, the Office of the High Commissioner called on the Human Rights Council to establish an international investigative body into human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in Libya.

Statement by the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya

STEPHANIE TURCO WILLIAMS, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya , said that, following the commencement of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces offensive on Tripoli on 4 April 2019, the Support Mission had witnessed an alarming military build-up as a result of the uninterrupted dispatch by the foreign backers of increasingly sophisticated and lethal weapons, not to mention the recruitment of more mercenaries to both sides of the conflict, in flagrant violation of the United Nations arms embargo. Once more, civilians in Libya continued to suffer disproportionately. One million people were now in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, including 400,000 internally displaced Libyans, along with 654,000 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Between 1 January and 31 March 2020, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya had documented at least 131 civilian casualties (64 deaths and 67 injuries), caused mainly by ground fighting, with 81 per cent of casualties attributed to the Libyan Arab Armed Forces, representing an increase in civilian casualties of 45 per cent compared to the last quarter of 2019. As hostilities continued, with battle lines shifting to the centre of the country and social polarization escalating, she noted with concern increasing retaliatory acts.

Most recently with the recapture of Tarhouna by the Government of National Accord from the Ninth Brigade “al-Kaniyat”, an affiliated-Libyan Arab Armed Forces armed group, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya had received with horror news of the discovery of multiple mass graves as well as the discovery of numerous bodies at Tarhouna hospital. The United Nations Support Mission in Libya had also received reports of hundreds of enforced disappearances, torture, killings and displacement of entire families in Tarhouna over recent years. It called for a prompt, impartial investigation by the authorities into all alleged cases of unlawful killings. With the need for concrete deliverables in mind, and along with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, she agreed that a Human Rights Council mandate to establish an investigative mechanism would be both the simplest and strongest basis for promoting much needed accountability in Libya. Given the ongoing serious violations occurring every day in the country, the establishment of such a mechanism would be important.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Libya , speaking as the concerned country, thanked the offices of the High Commissioner and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for preparing the report. Libya’s engagement with the international community had been affected by the fact that most of the international staff had left the capital, causing technical assistance to be interrupted, despite Libya’s urgent need for it. The Government had made efforts to promote human rights in places of detention, further strengthening humanitarian justice, thanks to, notably, the training of female prison staff. Collaboration with the International Organization for Migration had been strengthened. Libya remained resolute in its determination to impose sovereignty over its land and promote and protect human rights. The crimes related to the offensive against the capital could not be accepted, including those that had taken place in Tarhouna. Libya was calling for the creation of an investigation mechanism, one that was independent, to combat impunity and install stability throughout Libya. Libya had a lot of potential, including in terms of resources, which should allow for prosperity. The Government would work, under the United Nations umbrella, to combat unilateral interferences and improve the human rights situation in the country.

Interactive Dialogue on the Human Rights Situation in Libya

In the debate, speakers thanked the High Commissioner for the report and called on all parties to the conflict to respect the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire in face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The discovery of eight mass graves in Tarhuna was shocking, and speakers called for an investigation and accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations. The proposed fact-finding mission could play a vital role in this process. Attacks on human rights defenders, journalists, schools and healthcare facilities were condemned. Calling for the appointment of a new Special Representative in Libya, some speakers emphasized that only a political solution would bring this conflict to an end, urging more productive international solidarity. Other speakers noted that international pathways for peaceful conflict resolution, such as the Cairo Declaration, the Berlin Conference and Security Council resolution 2510, already existed. The peace process must be owned, and led, by Libya, some speakers stated, encouraging the national authorities to take the initiative in the negotiations. The conflict affected women and girls disproportionally, as they were subject to enforced disappearances, sexual violence, torture and other forms of ill treatment. Growing reports of violence were extremely concerning, as were reports of social media harassment of women involved in peace negotiations. Children were among those most impacted by the conflict, with documented cases of murder, sexual abuse and recruitment of children by armed groups increasing. Speakers further called for more technical support to be provided to the Libyan Government to tackle the rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus.

Speakers said they had documented serious violations of the laws of war by all sides. Those included the use of cluster munitions in residential areas in Tripoli, and torture, summary executions and desecration of bodies by fighters affiliated with the Libyan Arab Armed Forces under the command of Khalifa Haftar. Both parties had indiscriminately shelled and conducted air and drone strikes in civilian areas leading to homes destroyed and damages to vital civilian infrastructure, including healthcare facilities. Many detainees lived in small cells, with little fresh air, unable to take a shower. Despite such difficult detention conditions, the Ministry of Justice continued to arrest thousands of people and put them in prison without a fair trial. Mercenaries who had fought alongside Al-Qaeda and Islamic State were present and active in Libya. How would the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights ensure that they would not remain in Libya? The fighting was putting stress on Libya’s overstretched healthcare system, other speakers said. Recent developments, including reported mass graves, further demonstrated the urgent need for the Council to establish an independent international investigation mechanism on Libya. It was important to ensure that the fact-finding mission had at least one full year to discharge its mandate. Several speakers urged the Council to adopt the draft resolution to that end.

Concluding Remarks by the Concerned Country

Libya , speaking in concluding remarks as the concerned country, said the Government continued to show its commitment to upholding human rights, as attested by the constructive role it was playing in the process towards the creation of a fact-finding mission. Libya urged the international community to step up and shoulder its responsibilities as per the Berlin Conference. The Government of Libya was looking forward to working with all the parties concerned to protect and promote human rights in Libya.

Concluding Remarks by the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

NADA AL-NASHIF, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, welcomed the desire of the Libyan Government to work on capacity building with the international community, but noted that the current security conditions did not permit this to go ahead. The issue of addressing impunity was not an easy one to solve, as there were no international mechanisms that could ensure accountability for victims, therefore transgressions continued without consequences. A fact-finding mission, however, would help strengthen the capacity of regular courts and other relevant entities of Libya to deal with these crimes. Regarding the situation of women, the establishment of dedicated courts was a positive step, but much more had to be done. Repeated requests to remove women from prisons had been made. Ms. Al-Nashif expressed concerns about the shrinking civic space in Libya, and noted that the participation of women in peace talks was a priority.

Concluding Remarks by the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya

STEPHANIE TURCO WILLIAMS, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict together were negatively affecting the United Nations mobility on the ground. Under the Libyan Political Agreement, the women’s empowerment unit had been created, but its budget must be further supported. Women must also be integrated at every stage of the peace process, and more of them must be present.

High-Level Interactive Dialogue on the Human Rights Situation in the Central African Republic

Documentation

The Council has before it the Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council on 27 September 2019 on Technical assistance and capacity-building in the field of human rights in the Central African Republic (A/HRC/RES/42/36).

Statement by the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Central African Republic

NADA AL-NASHIF, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, welcomed the Central African Republic’s participation in this high-level dialogue, noting with concern that attacks on civilians and other human rights violations and abuses in the Central African Republic remained commonplace. Some 634 incidents of human rights abuses involving 1,092 persons, including 156 women, 118 boys and 72 girls, had been documented between September 2019 and May 2020. More than 90 per cent of the victims were attributed to armed groups who were signatories of the Peace Agreement. State agents were responsible for 54 per cent of these cases. Armed elements of Rounga and Goula factions of the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique had participated in clashes in Bamingui-Bangoran prefecture, killing at least 42 civilians. Reports that children were used as human shields to prevent the effective deployment of United Nations military peacekeepers were particularly concerning.

Ms. Al-Nashif commended the positive developments linked to the February 2019 Peace Agreement, notably progress in formally establishing the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission through legislation adopted in February 2020. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic had also had a huge impact on the transitional justice process, including the adoption and promulgation of the law in 2019/2020 and the finalization of the work of the Inclusive Commission. The three ex-Seleka factions which had signed the Action Plans with the United Nations were urged to prevent and stop grave child rights violations against children to uphold their commitments. The Government was also commended on the recent adoption of the Child Protection Code, which included the prosecution of grave child rights violations as well as attacks against humanitarians, schools and hospitals. As the Central African Republic was heading towards a presidential elections schedule in December, the State was called on to ensure that all citizens could enjoy their civil and political rights.

Statement by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic

YAO AGBETSE, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic , welcomed that, in accordance with its commitments under the Peace Agreement, the Government had integrated certain leaders of armed groups into State bodies and promulgated four laws adopted by the National Assembly in February 2020. The armed groups signatory to the Peace Agreement had committed multiple violations of human rights under international humanitarian law, with at least 80 per cent of 446 violations in 2019 attributed to the armed groups. Violations had increased since January 2020 due to a series of attacks in Ndele, some of which deliberately targeted civilians, with the total number of displaced people in the country reaching more than 697,000 in May 2020, based on figures provided by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Moreover, 615,862 Central African Republic refugees remained in neighbouring countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Mr. Agbetse concluded by expressing deep concern over the confrontations between armed groups which had the potential of turning into inter-community conflicts, in particular in Bria in January, and Ndele in March and April 2020, calling on the Central African authorities to act as guarantors of peace.

 

HRC20.045E