UN decries Libya human rights violations

Four years after the beginning of the uprising that led to the fall of Moammar Gadhafi, Libya is beset by widespread human rights violations, including assassinations of officials, killings of civilians, and abuses by armed groups that operate above the law, the United Nations said Tuesday.

“Libya is facing the worst political crisis and escalation of violence since the 2011 armed conflict,” a report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded. “Two parliaments and governments claim legitimacy, while powerful armed groups exercise effective control on the ground, committing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law with impunity.”

Rupert Colville, spokesman for the human rights commissioner, said Libyan civilians are regularly targeted by indiscriminate artillery and air attacks and that summary executions and unlawful killings are “commonplace.” No area of Libya has escaped the mayhem. Beheadings have taken place in the cities of Benghazi and Derna, and 400,000 Libyans were forced to flee their homes between May and November.

Attacks against civilians have taken place in Tripoli, Benghazi, Warshafana, the Nafusa Mountains and other areas, according to the report, which was compiled by the human rights office and the U.N. Support Mission in Libya.

The release of the report comes days before the country marks the anniversary of Feb. 15, 2011, the beginning of the uprising that eventually drew the support of NATO aircraft and resulted in Gadhafi’s death in October of that year. But the revolution did not turn out as expected. The country now has two governments, with the internationally recognized one now based in Tobruk and its adversary, the Islamist Libya Dawn, located in Tripoli.

U.N.-sponsored peace talks are scheduled to begin later this week in Libya, while a parallel set of negotiation between warring factions will begin in Geneva.

The report, however, found that violence is increasing in the country, with “human rights defenders, civil society activists and media professionals, as well as members of the judiciary and law enforcement officers . . . among the victims.”

The Islamic State is on the rise, with civil society activists opposed publicly to the group killed in Bengahzi in September and in Derna in November.

There’s little the country’s courts can do. “Prosecutors and judges have been frequently subjected to intimidation attacks, in the form of court bombings, physical assaults, abduction of individuals or family members and unlawful killings,” the report said.

Since the 2011 conflict, an estimated 6,200 people were held by the Ministry of Justice across Libya, of which only 10 percent had been tried and were serving sentences.

“More than 200,000 fighters” continue to be paid from central state funds, and while some are nominally affiliated with the defense or interior ministries, they operate largely autonomously.

Religious minorities have been targets of violence as well.

In February 2014, the bodies of seven Egyptian Coptic Christians were found near Benghazi, the report said, and more than 30 Egyptian Copts were detained in Benghazi, “allegedly tortured and asked to convert to Islam by Ansar al Shariah,” a militia also linked to the Sept. 11, 2012, deaths of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

Similarly, last October armed men looted and damaged the Othman Pash Madrasa, which serves Tripoli’s moderate Sufi Muslim community.