Libya: Human Rights Council must take important step towards ending impunity

States meeting in Geneva next week for the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) must establish an international investigative mechanism as a step towards accountability for perpetrators of horrific human rights violations in Libya, Amnesty International said today. 

Yesterday the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, released an important report on the situation in Libya for the HRC’s review. It documents entrenched impunity for violations including unlawful killings, torture and arbitrary detention, and calls on the HRC to establish an international investigative mechanism.

The situation in Libya continues to deteriorate, with civilians bearing the brunt of appalling crimes

Heba Morayef, MENA Director

“The situation in Libya continues to deteriorate, with civilians bearing the brunt of appalling crimes carried out by militias and armed groups and no end in sight to the conflict,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Director for MENA.

“As the High Commissioner noted, Libya’s own national institutions are unable and, in some cases, unwilling to end impunity. The international community urgently needs to step up to hold perpetrators accountable.”

The report on the situation in Libya details violations including children being attacked and killed while watching a football game, and migrants being routinely subjected to torture. The High Commissioner reported no record of any prosecution of members of militias or armed groups for crimes related to abuses since 2011. 

In October 2019, Libya was elected to a three-year term as a member of the HRC. Whether the Libyan government will support the establishment of an international investigative mechanism represents an early test as a new member. Other members of the HRC must encourage the Libyan government to support the creation of such a mechanism, and to offer full cooperation once it has been established. 

“Next week’s session is the moment for Council members to prove they are serious about their mandate to protect human rights,” said Heba Morayef.

“Justice for victims in Libya must be high on the agenda.”


The 43rd session of the Human Rights Council takes place between 24 February and 20 March.

Amnesty International’s in-depth field investigations in Libya, published in October 2019, unearthed evidence of potential war crimes by both the UN-backed Government of National Accord and the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army. In December 2019 Amnesty joined with other civil society organizations in an open call for states to actively support the Human Rights Council’s creation of this desperately needed and long overdue investigative and accountability mechanism.