UN Report Also Documents Grave Human Rights Violations in Libyan Migrant Detention Centres

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 (see my post on this from yesterday: UN Report Documents Extensive and Grave Human Rights Violations by Libyan Coast Guard Against Migrants).

The Final Report also addresses the manner in which many migrant detention centres are operated, controlled, and the conditions within. The report discusses links between armed groups and criminal groups in regard to migrant smuggling and the control of migrant detention centres by armed groups and criminal groups. Abuses, which have been well documented previously by many other reports, include deprivation of food and water, lack of access to sanitation, beatings, forced labour, rapes, and other forms of sexual violence.

Some migrant detention centres are operated by armed groups or criminal groups for the purpose of collecting migrants to be sold: sold to other smugglers, sold or used in forced labour (including demining operations), and sold as ‘sex slaves.’ The Report indicates that a migrant detention centre was established in in the Zawiyah refinery and was operated under the control of  the leader of the Petroleum Facilities Guard in Zawiyah, Mohamed Koshlaf. Coastguard commander Abd al-Rahman Milad (alias Bija) reportedly collaborates with Koshlaf in migrant smuggling by, among other things, using a coastguard boat for the purpose of intercepting migrants on board migrant boats operated by smuggling competitors.  There have been reports of deaths and injury of migrants on board the raided migrant boats.

Excerpts from the Final Report:

Summary

[***] Armed groups and criminal networks continue to exploit different sources of financing,  such  as  the  smuggling  of  migrants  and  fuel. The Panel has identified networks along the western coastline, which are active in both.

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V. Acts that violate applicable international human rights law or international humanitarian law or acts that constitute human rights abuses

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A.  Kidnappings, arbitrary detention and torture

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2. Western Libya

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93. Armed groups affiliated with the National Salvation Government were involved in several cases of kidnapping and The Presidential Security, headed by Mohammad Salem Dimona, used detention centres in the Felah area (the detention centre of the Department for Combating Illegal Migration) and in the Rixos Hotel area (see annex 26). Dimona, who moved to Tripoli International Airport in  March  2017,  was  directly  responsible  for  the  kidnapping  of  several individuals, including high-profile figures.

[***]

E. Human rights violations against migrants

104.  Abuses against migrants were widely reported, including executions, torture and deprivation of food, water and access to sanitation. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) also reported enslavement of sub-Saharan migrants.35 Smugglers, as well as the Department to Counter Illegal Migration and the coastguard, are directly involved in such grave human rights violations (see also para. 245).

105.  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).

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VI.  Implementation of the arms embargo

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E.  International support for Libya

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1. Training activities

Coastguard

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152.  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.”

[***]

IX.  Financing of armed groups

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B.  Migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons

255.  Migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons is integrated with  other smuggling activities, such as smuggling of arms, drugs and gold. Armed groups actively participate in the smuggling or take a cut of the profits. Smuggling occurs virtually uncontested because of the lack of reliable security forces.

1. Western Libya

256.  Arriving from Agadez in the Niger, migrants are gathered in warehouses located in Qatrun, Awbari, Sabha and Murzuq, where several groups make a profit from facilitation. Tebu and Tuareg smugglers “facilitate” migrant crossings of the southern border. Tebu leaders, such as Adamu Tchéké and Abu Bakr al-Suqi, collect tolls in cash for travel from the border to Sabha. Tuareg leaders, such as Cherif Aberdine,84 control the route to Murzuq.

257.  In Sabha, members of the Awlad Suleiman tribe are reportedly organizing the smuggling. From Ghadamis to Bani Walid and Nalut, the Zintanis Mohamed Maatoug and Ali Salek are frequently mentioned as major transporters of migrants (and cannabis).

258.  On the coast, the main facilitators 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). 85 The main departure site appears to be Talil Beach, in the resort complex in Sabratah.

 2. Eastern Libya

259.  The eastern route is managed by “fixers” from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, who identify candidates for departure and handle the finances. Libyans organize transportation within their territory. Migrants who have taken this route systematically report that uniformed men were overseeing their movements.

260.  The coordination in the border region of Kufrah is supposedly organized among the Tebus, Zways and elements of the Rapid Support Forces in the Sudan deployed along the border with the Sudan.86

261.  Up until 2016,  most of the  migrants  were  taken  from  Kufrah to Ajdabiya, where they were kept under the authority of the commander of the Petroleum Facilities Guard, Ibrahim Jadhran. One Eritrean, detained for a year in Ajdabiya, told  the  Panel  that  migrants were  used  by  the  Petroleum  Facilities  Guard  for demining operations without any military training or protective gear. The Petroleum Facilities Guard finally transferred him to another armed group in Sabratah.

262.  The Panel is investigating a number of bank transfers from relatives of migrants located in Sweden. These deposits are being made to Swedish bank accounts of the migrant smugglers for onward transfers through hawala systems located in the  Sudan  and  in  Dubai,  United Arab  Emirates,  where  the  money  is laundered.

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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.

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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.

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Final Report here.

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