Libya faces a serious threat to its security from foreign fighters and private military companies, in particular the Russian Wagner Group, which has violated international law.
In a United Nations report obtained by the Associated Press news agency, experts also accused seven Libyan armed groups of systematically using illegal detention to punish suspected opponents, ignoring international and national civil rights laws, including including those prohibiting torture.
In particular, “migrants have been extremely vulnerable to human rights violations and routinely subjected to acts of slavery, rape and torture,” the panel said in the report to the UN Security Council. .
The oil-rich North African nation descended into turmoil after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled strongman Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed.
It was then split between rival governments – one in the east, backed by military commander Khalifa Haftar, and a UN-recognized administration in the capital Tripoli. Each side is supported by different militias and foreign powers.
The report says Chadian opposition groups are operating from Libya and Sudanese fighters have been recruited by Haftar.
Turkish-backed Syrian fighters were seen by the panel in government military camps in Tripoli while Haftar-affiliated Syrian fighters operate alongside Russian Wagner Group fighters in the strategic northern city of Sirte and nearby Jufra . At least 300 of those Syrians have returned home and have not been replaced by Haftar, according to the report.
The panel said it was continuing to investigate the deployment of Wagner fighters and transfers of arms and related materiel to support its operations.
In April 2019, Haftar and his forces, backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, launched an offensive in an attempt to capture Tripoli. His campaign collapsed after Turkey stepped up its military support for the UN-recognized government with hundreds of troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries.
An October 2020 ceasefire agreement led to an agreement on a transitional government in early February 2021 and elections were scheduled for December 24 aimed at unifying the country. But they were canceled and the country now has rival governments with two Libyans claiming to be the prime minister.
The ceasefire agreement called for the rapid withdrawal of all foreign fighters and mercenaries, but the panel said “there has been little verifiable evidence of large-scale withdrawals to date”.
Supported by Wagner
The Wagner Group poses as a private military contractor and the Kremlin denies any connection 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 considered genuine a Samsung electronic tablet left on a Libyan battlefield by a Wagner mercenary and obtained by the BBC in early 2021. It contained maps of the locations of 35 unmarked anti-personnel mines in the Libyan area. Ain Zara south of Tripoli, which was then a frontline area under the control of Haftar, supported by Wagner.
Several mines had never been reported to be in Libya before and their transfer therefore violated the UN arms embargo, the panel said. He added that a mine bomb had exploded during a demining operation killing two civilian deminers.
Experts also received information about the recovery of anti-tank mines from positions mainly occupied by Wagner in southern Tripoli.
The panel said Wagner’s failure to visibly mark anti-personnel and anti-tank mines and warn civilians in the areas of their location was a violation of international humanitarian law.
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. Among the examples cited is the Luccello, a Comorian-flagged ship that delivered 100 armored vehicles to Haftar in Benghazi.
Experts said four migrants had suffered human rights abuses in secret detention centers controlled by human traffickers in the regions of Tazirbu in the Libyan desert and Bani Walid near the northwest coast. They said the victims were enslaved, severely beaten, deliberately starved and denied medical attention.
“Two former inmates, who at the time were 14 and 15 year old girls, further testified before the panel that multiple perpetrators repeatedly raped them, subjected them to sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence for a period of more than 18 months. in a secret detention center in Bani Walid,” the report said.
The panel said it also found that guards tasked with protecting the most vulnerable migrants at the government-run Shara al-Zawiya detention center “took a direct part in or turned a blind eye to systematic acts of rape, sexual exploitation and threats of rape against women and girls” were detained there between January and June 2021.