Tortured. Raped. Sold. We must protect refugees from terrible human rights abuses in Libya

by Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

Last month CNN news footage caught on film what authorities in Libya and in Europe do not want you to see: migrants being bought and sold.

A damning new Amnesty International report released this week paints a shocking picture of how this terrible degradation of human life has come to happen. “Libya’s Dark Web of Collusion” documents the systematic human rights abuse of 20,000 refugees and migrants from all over Africa and elsewhere, who are being held in detention Libya.

Tortured. Deprived of food. Raped. Drowned at sea. Bought and sold.  

Amnesty International’s report reveals not just the appalling, lawless conditions faced in Libyan detention centres, but the complicity of European governments in the abuse.

Along with the report, Amnesty International has reviewed footage, pictures and documents that indicate a boat donated by Italy in April 2017, the Ras Jadir, was used by the Libyan Coast Guard during a horrific incident on 6 November 2017, where their reckless actions contributed to the drowning of up to 50 people.

A staggering 10,000 men and women have drowned trying to escape the misery in Libya for safer shores of Europe.

Amnesty International must continue to do the vital, hard work of investigating and revealing human rights abuse like this.  The support of our worldwide membership helps us publicise the facts revealed by our research and ensure that governments use their influence and resources to act.

We’re strongly urging our supporters around the world join us in our global action, calling on Libyan and European leaders to:

  • Release all migrants and refugees from detention centers and end the arbitrary detention of refugees and migrants in Libya;
  • Investigate all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment of refugees and migrants in Libya, and ensure that the suspected perpetrators are prosecuted in a transparent and fair trial to put an end to the vicious cycle of abuse;
  • Review how they cooperate on migration policies, to prioritise protecting the human rights of refugees and migrants, instead of trapping people in Libya; and
  • Formally recognize the UNHCR and allow the organization to carry out its full mandate including the protection of asylum seekers and refugees.

Amnesty International is calling its global membership to urge Libyan and European authorities to release all migrants and refugees from detention centres and end the arbitary detention of refugees and migrants in Libya

Our report, based on evidence gathered this summer and through investigations in 2014, 2015 and 2016, describes how guards arbitrarily detain women, men and children in horrific conditions in detention centres across Libya and are involved in torturing and ill-treating refugees and migrants, very often to extort a ransom from them or their families in exchange for a release from indefinite arbitrary detention.

We have repeatedly documented the sale of migrants between militias, traffickers and criminal groups, and have stood up in defence of human rights activists in North Africa who have been imprisoned for revealing this truth.

We interviewed 72 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, and conducted countless meetings and exchanges with Libyan, European and UN officials. We spoke with men and women from Cameroon, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Eritrea, Gambia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Senagal, Syria, Sudan and more.

As a global movement of human rights activists, Amnesty International must speak up against every human rights violation we witness. And few violations are more gut wrenching than to see a human beings reduced to this, sold as a commodity, trapped and tortured in slave-like conditions, and subjected to life-threatening conditions by the very agencies meant to be coming to their aid.

This is a human rights crisis that must set off alarm bells for world leaders who are complicit in this unfolding tragedy.

Please stand with us now to stop this terrible degradation of human beings.