UN Rights Chief calls for review of EU-Libya Migrant Interception Deal

UN Rights Chief calls for review of EU-Libya Migrant Interception Deal

Shafaq News/ The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged a review of the longstanding arrangement between the European Union and Libyan authorities tasked with intercepting migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

Independent rights experts and charities involved in search and rescue operations have frequently criticized the arrangement, citing alleged reckless behavior by the Libyan Coast Guard, including firing at or near migrant vessels and ramming boats to make them capsize before returning the survivors to Libya.

In the 12 months since April 2023, more than 2,400 people have died or gone missing trying to cross the Central Mediterranean Sea, with over 1,300 departing from Libya, noted High Commissioner Volker Türk.

“It is unconscionable that people in search of safety and dignity are suffering and dying in such unspeakable circumstances,” Türk said. “I remind all States of the 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 likely die trying to cross the sands than in the Mediterranean Sea.

The “volatile security situation” has also prevented UN rights monitors from fully accessing southern and eastern parts of the country, Türk added. Investigators were also refused access to detention facilities and other locations across Libya.

Highlighting a spike in arbitrary arrests, detentions, enforced disappearances, and detention-related violations inside Libya, Türk expressed concern about the continued targeting of political opponents and dissenting voices.

“While the figure is likely to be higher and arrests continue, we have verified at least 60 cases of arbitrary detention of individuals who peacefully were exercising their right to express political views. In some cases, detention was followed by extra-judicial killing,” Türk said, insisting that the ongoing 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 since Storm Daniel caused catastrophic flooding in the coastal city of Derna, killing thousands, Türk maintained that the country remains “plagued by deep insecurity,” while ordinary Libyans endure “economic hardship coupled with political exclusion.”

Remedying the situation is possible, the UN human rights chief insisted, calling for a “rights-based, people-centered” transitional justice and reconciliation process, a sustainable political settlement, the restoration of the rule of law—including accountability for human rights violations—and unified, legitimate institutions.

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