UN Report Documents Extensive and Grave Human Rights Violations by Libyan Coast Guard Against Migrants

The Final Report of the Panel of Experts on Libya established pursuant to UN Security Council resolution 1973 (2011) was transmitted to the UN Security Council on 1 June and recently released. The Final Report addresses a range of issues covered by Resolution 1973, including activities of different Libyan Coast Guard factions.

I haven’t had the time to read the full document closely, but some excerpts from the Final Report are set forth below.  The report discusses links between armed groups, criminal groups, and different coast guard factions, including involvement by coast guard factions in migrant smuggling and coast guard factions shooting at or sinking migrant boats operated by competitors. The report makes clear that after interception at sea, migrants are “often beaten, robbed and taken to detention centres or private houses and farms where they are subjected to forced labour, rape and other sexual violence.” The report questions whether any of the coast guard factions are under the control of the Government of National Accord and questions the vetting of the coastguard trainees who are receiving training from EUNAVFOR MED. This information is further reason for the EU and EUNAVFOR MED to immediately suspend all collaboration with the Libyan coast guards and navy.

Excerpts from Final Report:


  1. On 17 August 2016, a speedboat attacked a Médecins sans frontières vessel off the Libyan coast. Two coastguard officers from the Dallah coastguard were involved in the attack. The two identified attackers are loyal to Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias Bija), head of the Zawiyah coastguard and involved in smuggling activities.


  1. [***] Smugglers, as well as the Department to Counter Illegal Migration and the coastguard, are directly involved in [ ] grave human rights violations [against migrants] (see also para. 245).
  1. Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias Bija), and other coastguard members, are directly involved in the sinking of migrant boats using firearms. In Zawiyah, Mohammad Koshlaf opened a rudimentary detention centre for migrants in the Zawiyah refinery. The Panel collected information on abuses against migrants by several individuals (see annex 30). In addition, the Panel collected reports of poor conditions in migrant detention centres in Khums, Misratah and Tripoli (see para. 93 and annex 31).


  1. Neither the coastguard nor the navy has been notified to the Committee [established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya] as part of the security forces under the control of the Government of National Accord, and the issue of control is further highlighted by multiple reports of criminal activities involving the coastguard (see para. 104), most notably by UNSMIL: “Migrants, as well as representatives of international non-governmental organizations that carry out search and rescue operations, have also recounted dangerous, life -threatening interceptions by armed men believed to be from the Libyan coastguard. After interception, migrants are often beaten, robbed and taken to detention centres or private houses and farms, where they are subjected to forced labour, rape and other sexual violence”
  1. These reports highlight further concerns raised with the Panel over the level of vetting to which [coastguard] trainees have been subject.


  1. Criminal networks tip off the coastguard to prevent rival gangs from carrying out successful [fuel] smuggling operations. The coastguard in Zawiyah is also involved in the smuggling business.


  1. As mentioned in paragraph 240, the leader of the Petroleum Facilities Guard inZawiyah, Mohamed Koshlaf, also known as Kasib or Gsab (see paras. 105 and 258), is involved in the procurement of fuel for smugglers. He also commands the so-called militia Nasr. FTNT 81 His brother, Walid Koshlaf, also known as Walid al-Hadi al-Arbi Koshlaf, runs the financial side of the business. The head of the coastguard in Zawiyah, Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias Bija) (see also paras. 59, 105 and 258), is an important collaborator of Koshlaf in the fuel business.


  1. On the  coast,  the  main  facilitators  [of migrant smuggling] are  based  in  Zawiyah,  Zuwarah  and Sabratah. They include the armed group commanders Mohamed Koshlaf and Ahmed Dabbashi (alias Amu). Coastguard commander Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias Bija) collaborates with Koshlaf (see paras. 59, 105 and 245). FTNT 85  The main departure site appears to be Talil Beach, in the resort complex in Sabratah.


Annex 17    Links between armed groups, criminal groups and the Coast guard in Zawiya

  1. Sources provided the Panel with a detailed description of the modus operandi of smuggling networks in Zawiya.
  2. Competition over the control of the fuel smuggling business in Zawiya has deepened historic tribal divisions between Awlad Bu Hmeira and Awlad Saqr in Zawiya. Since 2012, the Nasr Brigade, under the command of Mohammad Koshlaf from the Awlad Bu Hmeira tribe, has been in control of the Zawiya refinery. Koshlaf’s monopoly over the refinery has since been disputed by Awlad Saqr and the allied armed groups of Othman al-Lahab and al-Khadrawi.
  3. In late 2014, the expansion of the migrant smuggling and human trafficking business in Zawiya further increased the competition. The commander of the al-Nasr brigade opened a detention centre in Zawiya. The Panel received information that the detention centre, commanded by a former army Colonel, Fathi al-Far, is used to ‘sell’ migrants to other smugglers. Meanwhile, Koshlaf also became active in migrant smuggling.
  4. Since 2014, Koshlaf’s network gained influence over the coast guard operations in Zawiya, notably through the officer Abd al-Rahman Milad (also from the Awlad Bu Hmeira tribe). In 2015, The Zawiya coast guard’s patrol boat (see photograph below), operated by Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias al-Bija), was involved in intercepting migrants and transferring them to the al-Nasr detention centre. An armed group from Awlad Saqr, also involved in the migrant smuggling business, attempted to take over control of the boat in March 2016.
  5. Repeated violent clashes in Zawiya in 2016 and 2017, between armed groups controlled by Ibrahim Hneish and Mohammad Koshlaf on one side and al-Khadrawi and al-Lahab on the other, show how strong the competition over the criminal business is.
  6. According to several sources, competing groups have regularly targeted migrants under the custody of their rivals, provoking death and injury of several migrants.
  7. Shaaban Hadiya’s armed group involvement in the smuggling business, if any, is unclear. However, a commander of Hadiya’s group was seen by Panel’s sources fighting alongside Ibrahim Hneish, which might indicate links between Shaaban Hadiya and the Koshlaf clan.
  8. Koshlaf’s al-Nasr brigade in Zawiya collaborates with the al-Haboutate brigade of Warshafana, in organizing the migrant smuggling. Reportedly, this has led to the opening of the coastal road between Zawiya and Tripoli over the last few weeks.


Annex 30    Human rights violations against migrants in Zawiya

  1. Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias al-Bija) is the head of the Zawiya branch of the coast guard. He obtained this position thanks to the support of Mohammad Koshlaf and Walid Koshlaf. Both had leverage over the coast guard hierarchy, according to internal sources in the coast guard.
  2. Fathi al-Far, a former army colonel, is the head of al-Nasr detention centre. The centre is under the de facto control of al-Nasr Brigade of Mohammad Koshlaf. The Panel collected testimonies of the inhumane detention conditions at al-Nasr, which is not suitably equipped to hold migrants. Women and children live in critical conditions.
  3. In addition, many migrants are frequently beaten, while others, notably women from sub- Saharan countries and Morocco, were sold on the local market as ‘sex slaves’.
  4. Tareq al-Hengari is also a member of the coast guard. He shot at migrants’ boats at sea, causing the death of an unknown number of migrants, in an attempt to undermine the smuggling business of Koshlaf’s competitors.


Final Report here.


Filed under General

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