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UN experts: Foreign mercenaries in Libya must be held accountable for crimes against humanity

United Nations experts stressed Friday that human rights violations committed by foreign mercenaries in Libya must be investigated, and the perpetrators must be held accountable.

The experts stressed that the departure of foreign fighters from the country is a “prerequisite and necessary” for the holding of the elections scheduled for December.

The United Nations estimates that there are more than 20,000 foreign fighters seeking to take advantage of the conflict in Libya, most of them from Syria, Turkey, Chad and Sudan.

Members of the United Nations Security Council agreed that they should be repatriated, but two of the council’s permanent members, the United States and the United Kingdom; accuse another country, Russia; of being responsible for deploying a number of foreign fighters. They point in particular to the Wagner Group, a Kremlin-backed private security company that UN experts say is involved in the fighting in Libya.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any role in the country’s battlefields, and Yelena Abarak, chair of the United Nations Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, said that heavily armed mercenaries; from Russia, Syria, Sudan and Chad; threaten the security and stability of not only Libya but also other countries in the region.

She added: “Nine months after the ceasefire agreement calling for the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya; Mercenaries and military and security contractors continue to operate in the country. Their continued recruitment and presence in Libya hinders progress in the peace process and constitutes an obstacle to the upcoming elections.”

The experts of the working group said that these mercenaries should leave the country, immediately, and “there should be an immediate halt to the transfer of weapons and military equipment to Libya.”

She called on the international community to “take concrete steps” to move forward with the process of returning these fighters, warning that if foreign fighters remained in the country at election time; Libyans will not be able to vote in a secure environment.

Its team concluded, more than a year ago, that reliance on mercenaries since 2019; contributed to the conflict in Libya, undermined the peace process, and constituted a violation of the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council on the country.

Since then; The experts have repeatedly urged governments to investigate all violations of human rights and humanitarian law.

The experts said: “A year later, and looking forward to the elections; We remain concerned that any political process aims to establish a sustainable peace; It must include a real commitment to human rights.”

They added: There must be real accountability for the violations committed by mercenaries and related parties.

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