Libya: A new report documents hundreds of civilians killed, including under torture

A view of the streets of the Libyan capital, Tripoli @Shutterstock

OMCT News Release

Geneva – Tunis, 27 September 2022

Libyan law enforcement agents and militias killed at least 581 civilians, both nationals and migrants, between January 2020 and March 2022, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) said in a report published today. This number includes people executed in detention facilities or tortured to death.

The cases we have been able to document represent only the tip of the iceberg”, said Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of the OMCT. “Extrajudicial killings of defenceless civilians, often accompanied by horrific torture, are now endemic in Libya, as government agents and armed militias unleash indiscriminate violence with total impunity. The world cannot remain complacent and allow such egregious crimes to become the new normal.”

The report, titled “That was the last time I saw my brother”, is the first research focusing on extrajudicial killings in Libya. It is based on direct interviews with witnesses and survivors carried out across the country by the Libyan Anti-Torture Network (LAN), a group of civil society organisations. The two-year investigation, which LAN members undertook at significant personal risk, was further hindered by the Covid-19 pandemic and the fear of reprisals. Witnesses included survivors of atrocities and, in some cases, guards or members of security forces.

The majority of documented cases – 487 out of 581 – were Libyan civilians, while the remaining 83 victims were migrants or refugees of various nationalities, including Nigerians, Sudanese, and Syrians. These numbers come in addition to 11 documented cases from the Tarhouna mass graves, where scores of bodies were dumped in April 2019.

Since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in October 2011, Libya has descended into a state of lawlessness, with two rival governments and a myriad of armed militias whose members torture, ransom, and kill in total impunity. The so-called “militia rule” instils fear in the population. Additionally, the fact that a sizable proportion of the killings are carried out by government officials further reduces any chances for prosecution.

The report provides detailed recommendations to the Libyan authorities, the United Nations, and the international community.

The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) is the largest global NGO group actively standing up to torture and protecting human rights defenders worldwide. It has more than 200 members in 90 countries. Its international Secretariat is based in Geneva, Switzerland.

Read the report here.

For more information, please contact:
Iolanda Jaquemet, Director of Communications

+41 79 539 41 06