Security forces and armed groups in Tripoli have used excessive and unlawful force and other types of violence in an unprecedented arrest operation of more than 5000 migrants, including women and children, held in appalling conditions where torture and sexual abuse are common, Amnesty International said.
In a report, the organization added that the security authorities in Libya have a horrific record of exposing refugees and migrants to unimaginable horrors, with impunity.
Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, said: “The use of unlawful lethal force to apprehend thousands of defenseless men, women and children, solely on the basis of their ethnicity; It reveals the authorities’ absolute disregard for the lives and dignity of refugees and migrants.”
She called on Libyan authorities to immediately release all those arbitrarily detained, on the basis of their immigration status, and to open investigations into all incidents of unlawful use of force, torture, and sexual violence.
The human rights official called for ensuring that detainees are treated humanely, held in conditions that meet international standards, and given unhindered access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian actors without delay.
In a related context, eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that they saw at least 3 migrants being shot and dropping bodies on the ground.
“They arrested any black person,” a man who managed to escape told Amnesty International, while a woman told Amnesty International that when she tried to show her UNHCR registration, an armed man tore her up before arresting her and taking her to a detention center run by the Directorate for Combating Refugees and Illegal Immigration, responsible for immigration control.
Amnesty International quoted the account of a woman held in the building detention center of the Office for Combating Illegal Migration, where it said: “The male guards sexually assaulted several girls and women. Male guards then searched and groped her.”
Amnesty International has previously documented the practices of members of the Anti-Illegal Immigration Service and members of armed groups, who routinely subject migrants and refugees to torture, other ill-treatment, and harsh detention conditions, in the Ghout al-Shaal and al-Zawiya Street detention centers.
At the conclusion of its report, the organization urged the European Union and member states to urgently suspend any cooperation with Libya on migration and border control, calling for ensuring that any future cooperation stipulates that the authorities in Libya end the policy of arbitrary detention of migrants and refugees and effectively investigate violations against them.