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UN: Attacks on Healthcare Facilities in Libya Likely War Crimes


FILE - United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein addresses the 37th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Feb. 26, 2018 in Geneva.

The United Nations — in a joint report by the UN Human Rights Office and the U.N. Support Mission in Libya — condemns widespread, indiscriminate attacks by all armed groups in Libya against healthcare facilities and personnel, saying they could constitute war crimes.

The U.N. agencies have recorded 36 attacks on medical facilities, personnel or patients between May 2017 and May 2018. But, U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani notes monitors are severely restricted in their movements in Libya and the actual number of attacks is probably significantly higher.

“Armed groups, including those formally integrated into the ministries, have assaulted, threatened and even unlawfully deprived healthcare workers of their liberty. Doctors and other hospital staff face insults, intimidation and beatings by fighters who are seeking preferential treatment for the injured members of their armed groups and their relatives.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, describes as utterly shameful behavior the threats against doctors and attacks against medical facilities that prevent sick and wounded people from receiving timely treatment.

His spokeswoman, Shamdasani, says these actions affect some of the most vulnerable people in Libya.

“These attacks are obviously a major violation of international law and a tragic disregard for our common humanity, intentionally directing attacks against medical facilities and personnel, willfully killing or harming sick or wounded people may constitute war crimes,” she said.

The U.N. calls on all parties in the conflict to minimize hits on medical facilities and workers during military operations. It also calls on Libya’s interim Government of National Accord to hold accountable those who attack and threaten healthcare providers.

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