U.N. investigators say they have found evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes perpetrated in Libya in recent years, including violence against civilians on the part of foreign mercenaries and human rights violations in prisons.

Amid the instability and violence during the past few years of civil war, investigators said, there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that war crimes were committed in Libya and that violence in prisons and against migrants in the nation may amount to crimes against humanity.

“Our investigations have established that all parties to the conflicts, including third States, foreign fighters and mercenaries, have violated international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of proportionality and distinction, and some have also committed war crimes,” Mohamed Auajjar, chair of the fact-finding mission, said in a statement.

The U.N. investigators focused on the actions of parties to the armed conflict across Libya since 2016. The group reviewed hundreds of documents, interviewed over 150 people and conducted investigations in Libya, Tunisia and Italy.

The report found that the violence, including attacks on hospitals and schools, has dramatically affected economic, social and cultural rights in Libya. It also documented the recruitment and participation of children in hostilities, as well as the disappearance and extrajudicial killings of prominent women.

The report also said airstrikes have killed dozens of families, civilians have been maimed and killed by anti-personnel mines left by mercenaries in residential areas, and health-related facilities have been destroyed, restricting access to health care.

Recalling the year of hostilities in Tripoli in 2019, Auajjar said civilians paid a “heavy price.”

Fact-finding mission member Chaloka Beyani warned Monday of “worrying reports” that Russia-based Wagner Group mercenaries, accused of human rights violations, remain in the country.

While the conflicts have ebbed somewhat, September saw some of Tripoli’s heaviest armed clashes since the rival eastern and western factions — aiming to control territory and state institutions — paused fighting a year ago, Reuters reported.

The U.N. mission also looked into alleged abuses against internally displaced people, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in detention centers, at sea and at the hands of traffickers. State and nonstate actors, “with a high level of organization and with the encouragement of the state,” committed violations on a “widespread scale,” Beyani said, with those violations “suggestive of crimes against humanity.”

“Chronic insecurity” in Libya has led to internal displacement for hundreds of thousands, the report noted.

In Libyan prisons, the mission said, detainees were tortured on a daily basis and deprived of family visits. Militias and the state used arbitrary detention in secret prisons and unbearable detention conditions against “anyone perceived to be a threat to their interests or views,” Tracy Robinson, another mission member, said in a statement. The violence is committed “on such a scale and with such a level of organization” that it may also amount to crimes against humanity, she said.

The country is set to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in December, with hopes of uniting a divided nation and ending turmoil and violence.


An earlier version of this report misidentified Robinson as Robinsons. The article has been corrected.

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