By Michel Cousins
Paris, 28 September 2016:
UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler has called for end to illegal migrants being arbitrarily detained, abused and treated as criminals. The plight of migrants travelling through Libya, particularly those from Sub-Saharan Africa, is horrific and “utterly unacceptable”, the envoy says.
Libya needs to establish an asylum system for migrants as soon as possible, he believes. Additionally, those who are detained need better protection, particularly female migrants whom, he says, are liable to sexual abuse.
The impunity of those who abuse the migrants likewise has to end. The perpetrators, he claims, include not only traffickers and smugglers but members of armed groups and of official institutions as well.
Addressing the UN’s Human Rights Council at their annual meeting in Geneva, Kobler also presented a grim picture of life for ordinary Libyans in the country.
Because of the political chaos impacting on the economy, people were facing power cuts, a lack of cash at the banks, a wrecked medical system and many schools closed.
“What should be a wealthy and developed country is increasingly struggling with providing basic services to its people.”
As a result of the continued clashes and the absence of security and stability, ordinary people were in real danger.
“Deaths and suffering are present all over the country.”
UNSMIL knew of 287 civilian casualties (141 deaths, 30 of them children, and 146 injuries) in the six months from 1 March this year, he said but added that the figure was certainly much higher. These had simply been cases that UNSMIL had been able to investigate.
Additionally, in Benghazi, there were more than 100 families currently trapped in areas of fighting, short of food, medical care and electricity, and at risk of constant bombing. In Derna, the residents were also suffering from a lack of essential items.
As for the battle against IS in Sirte, those fighting it were paying “a heavy price”, he said, pointing out 600 had died so far, most from Misrata. But he also expressed “great concern” at reports of summary executions of IS prisoners in the town, saying that while he welcomed assurances that this was not policy he reminded “all concerned that the fight against terrorism must be carried out in strict conformity with international humanitarian law”.
Apart from a few encouraging signs on the political landscape – he noted the Misrata-Tawergha deal, the appointment of commanders for the new presidential guard, the fact that the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Judicial Council and the Judicial Police are still functioning and have not split into parallel bodies, and the Presidency Council establishing a Women’s Support and Empowerment Unit – Kobler’s report was almost entirely downbeat.
His call for migrants to cease being treated as criminals has sparked some controversy with accusations against him by some on social media of interference in internal Libyan affairs. On his Facebook page, Fadil Al-Amin, a member of the UN-brokered Libya Dialogue, has accused Kobler of exceeding his remit, saying that it is not up to him to propose laws in Libya.