United Nations-mandated investigators have painted a grim picture of migrants in Libya, just days after saying they were seeking to verify the presence of mass graves at a human trafficking center in the country’s northwest region.
CAIRO — United Nations-mandated investigators painted a grim picture for migrants in Libya on Wednesday, just days after saying they were seeking to verify the presence of mass graves at a human trafficking center in the northwest of the country.
Chief investigator Mohamed Auajjar said the group had documented “consistent patterns of serious human rights violations” against migrants in government-run detention centers and trafficking centres.
Libya has in recent years become a popular, if extremely dangerous, route to Europe for those fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East. The North African nation plunged into turmoil following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
In the town of Bani Walid, in the north-west of the country, the investigators, commissioned by the supreme body of human rights of the UN, discovered that “migrants were held captive, murdered, tortured and raped “.
They said in the report that at least eight migrants spoke of mass graves in the city, which investigators said they needed to verify.
Auajjar told the Human Rights Council on Wednesday that they were also looking into the existence of secret detention centers, some of which are controlled by armed militias.
Investigators said in an October report that they had evidence of possible crimes against humanity and war crimes in Libya. Many of the alleged crimes, they say, were committed against civilians and migrants detained in the country as they attempted to travel to Europe.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants hoping to reach Europe have transited in recent years through Libya, where a lucrative trade in trafficking and smuggling has flourished.
The country has been without a functioning government and has been fragmented for years between rival administrations in the east and west, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.
Human traffickers have taken advantage of the chaos in the oil-rich nation, smuggling migrants across the country’s long border with six nations. They pack desperate migrants into ill-equipped dinghies, then embark on risky journeys across the Mediterranean Sea.
Many of those intercepted and returned to Libya – including women and children – are being held in government-run detention centers where they suffer abuse including torture, rape and extortion, according to rights groups.