UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calls for review of EU-Libya deal on migrant interception

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calls for review of EU-Libya deal on migrant interception

09/07/2024 17:32:26+00:00

Shafaq News/ The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for a review of the long-standing agreement between the European Union and Libyan authorities to intercept migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

Independent human rights experts and charities involved in search and rescue operations have frequently criticised the arrangement, citing alleged reckless behaviour by the Libyan coastguard, including firing on or near migrant vessels and ramming boats to capsize them before returning survivors to Libya.

In the 12 months since April 2023, more than 2,400 people have died or gone missing attempting to cross the central Mediterranean Sea, including more than 1,300 who left Libya, High Commissioner Volker Türk noted.

“It is unacceptable that people seeking safety and dignity should suffer and die in such unspeakable circumstances,” Mr. Türk said. “I remind all States of their collective responsibility under international law to save lives and prevent deaths at sea.”

Türk also called for action to address the deaths of many migrants and refugees heading to Libya via the Sahara Desert. New UN estimates suggest that twice as many migrants die trying to cross the desert than in the Mediterranean Sea.

The “unstable security situation” has also prevented UN human rights monitors from gaining full access to the southern and eastern regions of the country, Mr. Türk added. Investigators have also been denied access to detention centers and other locations across Libya.

Highlighting an increase in arbitrary arrests, detentions, enforced disappearances and detention-related violations in Libya, Türk expressed concern over the continued targeting of political opponents and dissenting voices.

“While the figure is likely higher and arrests continue, we have documented at least 60 cases of arbitrary detention of people peacefully exercising their right to express their political views. In some cases, detention has been followed by extrajudicial executions,” Türk said, stressing that the continued lack of accountability for violations and abuses committed in 2011 “remains one of the serious obstacles to reconciliation today and serves as a driver of conflict.”

Less than a year after Storm Daniel caused catastrophic flooding in the coastal city of Derna, killing thousands, Mr Türk said the country remained “in the grip of deep insecurity” while ordinary Libyans suffered “economic hardship coupled with political exclusion”.

The situation is fixable, the UN human rights chief insisted, calling for a “rights-based and people-centred” transitional justice and reconciliation process, a lasting political settlement, the restoration of the rule of law – including accountability for human rights violations – and unified and legitimate institutions.