‘Violence, atrocities and impunity’ reign throughout Libya, ICC prosecutor tells UN Security Council

OCHA/Giles Clarke At the Qanfoodah Detention Centre in Benghazi, Libya, male Afrian detainees wait to be declared present at a morning roll call.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Libya remains entangled in a “cycle of violence, atrocities and impunity”, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told the UN Security Council on Wednesday, nearly a decade since the Court began its work in the country.

“There has been an escalation of violence”, she stated, citing reports indicating a “high number of civilian deaths, thousands of persons internally displaced, and a sharp increase in abductions, disappearances and arbitrary arrests across Libya”.

The Prosecutor underscored that without the “unequivocal support” of the Council and international community to end the Libyan conflict, the country risks being “embroiled in persistent and protracted conflict and continued fratricide”.

‘Grave international crimes’

She informed the room that arrest warrants are still outstanding for “three ICC fugitives” accused of “grave international crimes”, including war crimes and crimes against humanity, including “persecution, imprisonment, torture, and other inhumane acts”.

“Perpetrators of serious international crimes are emboldened when they believe they will never face justice”, Ms. Bensouda continued, adding that this “cycle of impunity has provided a breeding ground for atrocities in Libya”.

She pointed out that with the fugitives at large, “justice still eludes the victims of their alleged crimes”.

Referencing “reliable information” the Prosecutor said that Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, is believed to be in Zintan, Libya; Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled is in the Benghazi area; while Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli is in Cairo, Egypt.

Impunity “serves both as an obstacle and a threat to stability and must be checked through the force of law”, she maintained.

She said Mr. Al-Werfalli appeared to have been “rewarded for his behaviour”, having been promoted twice by the leadership of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) which is still laying siege to the capital Tripoli – first of all in 2017, after videos depicting the first four unlawful executions he allegedly perpetrated, had been posted online.

“The effective power to arrest and surrender ICC suspects rests solely with States”, she asserted, adding that her Office is however, “developing, in coordination with States, enhanced strategies and methodologies to track and arrest suspects”.

The Prosecutor underscored the need for “a concerted international effort to ensure accountability for atrocity crimes” to break the cycle.

“Through the arrest and surrender of the ICC fugitives, the international community can begin to bring justice to the victims in Libya and help prevent future crimes”, she said, calling on all States “to do everything in their power to ensure the surrender of all three ICC Libya fugitives to the Court”.

A grave situation

Ms. Bensouda was “deeply alarmed” by reports indicating that since April “more than 100 civilians have been killed, 300 injured and 120,000 displaced” during fighting, calling for all combatants to “pay heed to the rules of international humanitarian law”.

Condemning all unlawful violence in Libya, she spelled out, “Let me be clear: I will not hesitate to bring new applications for warrants of arrest against those most responsible for alleged crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the ICC”.

Targeting migrants

Turning to crimes against migrants, she recalled that “the ICC is a court of last resort”, and only acts when States do not “investigate and prosecute serious international crimes”.

However, through collecting and analysing documentary, digital and testimonial evidence on alleged crimes in detention centres, her Office has facilitated progress in “a number of investigations and prosecutions relating to crimes against migrants in Libya”.

In closing she flagged that the country will continue to be a priority for her Office next year, saying, “the people of Libya deserve peace and stability”.

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