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UN Warns Libya Moving Toward Full-Scale Civil War

FILE - A journalist covers the frontline during clashes between forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar and fighters loyal to the Libyan internationally-recognized Government of National Accord, south of Tripoli, May 25,2019.

The United Nations warns escalating violence and a deepening humanitarian crisis in Libya is pushing the country closer toward a return to the full-scale civil war that overthrew former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The United Nations warns progress toward achieving a more stable, effective, and humane government has been shattered. It says the military offensive of rebel leader General Khalifa Haftar on the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in April has brought the political process to a standstill.

Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore says she fears the chaos, the unbearable suffering of the civilian population, and widespread human rights violations in the country will continue unabated.

She says summary executions, abductions, enforced disappearances, torture and gender-based violence are rampant. She notes thousands of women, men and children languish in prolonged arbitrary detention. She says human rights defenders and activists are targeted. She says U.N. staff, humanitarian workers, and civilians are attacked, killed and wounded.

“Intentional targeting of civilians and civilian objects as well as indiscriminate attacks may amount to war crimes. Crimes of such gravity cannot pass unpunished--those responsible must be identified and held accountable," said Gilmore.

Gilmore expresses concern about the plight of thousands of migrants detained under appalling, abusive conditions in Libyan detention centers. She says many migrants also are exposed to the impacts of the conflict.

“Today, of the 4,900 migrants detained in inhumane conditions in Libya, 3,500 are held in detention centers located in conflict zones, many of those being located in or next to militia compounds or ammunition stores," said Gilmore. "One in five of those so detained is a child.”

Every year, tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, make the hazardous journey across the Sahara Desert toward Libya. From there, thousands risk their lives on the dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossing to Europe in search of a better life.

Gilmore notes migrants intercepted at sea by the Libyan Coast Guard are returned and put into detention. She is calling for the closure of all immigration detention centers in Libya.

The Libyan charge d’affairs in Geneva, Tamim Baiou, accepts many of the criticisms in the U.N. report, but notes the political division in his country country cannot end without international support.

He calls on the international community to help his government tackle the problems of weapons proliferation, organized crime, illegal immigration and terrorism.