“Numbers of migrants in Libya continue to be held arbitrarily for indefinite periods and in inhuman conditions. Inside official and unofficial detention centres they are subjected to horrific abuse. We have received numerous reports of migrants being killed, beaten, tortured, raped, extorted, and forced to work for no pay – with little access to sanitation facilities, food, water, or medical care. Information received further suggests migrant women and girls are being subjected to rape, including gang rape and other sexual violence and exploitation whilst detained, including in official detention centres.
The situation at sea is no less tragic. On 10 May, the Libyan Naval Coast Guard interrupted a rescue underway in international waters by a German NGO, Sea Watch. This interception was conducted in a dangerous manner, with the result that the Libyan Naval Coastal Guard took over the operation, returning 600 refugees and migrants to Libya, who were then transferred to official detention centres where many of them were beaten and ill-treated.
Most recently, the Coast Guard announced the prohibition of search and rescue operations in international waters near to Libya upon the threat of force. We reiterate our call upon Libya, the European Union and Italy to urgently take the steps necessary to ensure that NGOs can safely resume search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea in line with international law – and to ensure that cooperation between them fully respects the rights and dignity of migrants and the principle of non-refoulement. The significant support provided by European States and others to Libyan authorities must prevent, not further, human rights violations against migrants.
I note the findings of two of this Council’s Special Rapporteurs that “The solution is not to restrict access to international waters or firing weapons to threaten boats, as Libya has reportedly done repeatedly.” This is in contravention of the obligation to rescue people in distress and will only result in more deaths of migrants at sea”, as the experts have advised.
And we urge due attention to their concerns that “The EU’s proposed new action plan, including a code of conduct for organizations operating rescue boats, threatens life and breaches international standards by condemning people to face further human rights violations in Libya”.
From the UN side, we have stepped up our dialogue with Government counterparts on the need for accountability of security forces, also in the context of implementing the UN’s human rights due diligence policy.”