Libya faces a serious security threat from foreign fighters and private military companies, most notably Russia’s Wagner group that has violated international law, UN experts said in a report obtained by The Associated Press.
The experts also accused seven Libyan armed groups of systematically using illegal detention to punish alleged opponents, and ignoring international and domestic civil rights laws, including laws banning torture.
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In particular, “migrants are extremely vulnerable to human rights abuses and have been regularly subjected to slavery, rape and torture,” the panel said in the report to the UN Security Council obtained by the AP late Friday.
The oil-rich North African country was in turmoil after a 2011 uprising that toppled former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed.
It was then split between rival governments – one in the east, backed by Libyan general Khalifa Haftar, and a UN-backed government in the capital, Tripoli. Each side is supported by different groups and foreign powers.
In April 2019, Hafter and his troops launched an offensive to capture Tripoli.
His campaign collapsed after Turkey ramped up its military support to the UN-backed government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.
An October 2020 ceasefire deal led to an agreement on a transitional government in early February 2021, and elections were scheduled for December 24 to unify the country.
But they were canceled and the country now has rival governments with two Libyans claiming to be prime ministers.
The ceasefire agreement called for the prompt withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries, but the panel said “there has been little verifiable evidence of large-scale withdrawals to date.”
According to the report, Chadian opposition groups are operating from Libya and Sudanese fighters have been recruited by Haftar.
Turkish-backed Syrian fighters have been seen by the panel in government military camps in Tripoli, while Haftar-affiliated Syrian fighters operate alongside fighters from the Wagner Group in the strategic northern city of Sirte and nearby Jufra. At least 300 of these Syrians have returned home and have not been replaced by Haftar, the report said.
The panel said it will continue to investigate the deployment of Wagner fighters and the transfer of weapons and related equipment to support its operations.
The Wagner Group poses as a private military contractor and the Kremlin denies any association with it. But the United States identifies Wagner’s financier as Yevgeny Prigozhin, an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The panel said it believes a Samsung electronic tablet left on a Libyan battlefield by a Wagner mercenary and obtained by the BBC in early 2021 is authentic.
It contained maps of the locations of 35 unmarked anti-personnel mines in the Ain Zara area of southern Tripoli, which was then a frontline area under Haftar’s control, supported by Wagner.
Several mines had never been reported to be in Libya and their transfer therefore violated the UN arms embargo, the panel said. It added that a booby-trapped mine exploded during a mine clearance operation that killed two civilian mine clearers.
Experts also received information on the recovery of anti-tank mines from positions mainly occupied by Wagner in southern Tripoli.
The panel said failing to visibly mark the anti-personnel and anti-tank mines and issue warnings of their locations to civilians in the areas was a violation of international humanitarian law by Wagner.
The Wagner tablet also contained a list of requested items, including drones and tanks that would violate the arms embargo if delivered, the panel said, but it didn’t know if there was any of it.
The panel said it identified 18 arms transfers and four examples of military training between March 2021 and the end of April 2022 that violated the UN arms embargo.
One of the examples it mentioned was the Luccello, a ship flying the flag of the Comoros that delivered 100 armored vehicles to Haftar in Benghazi.
The experts said four migrants were victims of human rights violations in secret detention centers controlled by traffickers in the areas of Tazirbu in the Libyan desert and Bani Walid off the northwest coast.
They said victims were enslaved, severely beaten, deliberately starved and denied medical care.
“Two former female detainees, 14- and 15-year-old girls at the time, further stated to the panel that multiple perpetrators have repeatedly raped them, subjected them to sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence over a period of more than 18 years. months in a secret detention facility in Bani Walid,” the report said.
The panel also said that guards responsible for protecting the most vulnerable migrants at the government-run Shara al-Zawiya detention center “directly participated in or turn a blind eye to consistent acts of rape, sexual exploitation and threats of rape against women.” and girls” who were held there between January and June 2021.
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