By Cecilia Ologunagba, New York.
New suspected mass graves have been uncovered in Tarhuna, Libya, a UN Human Rights Council probe reported on Monday.
The report highlighted continuing extreme rights abuses in the country that have affected children and adults alike.
Speaking in Geneva, Mr Mohamed Auajjar, Chairman of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, told journalists that a culture of impunity still prevailed across the war-torn country.
This, Auajjar said, represented “a great obstacle’’ to national reconciliation, truth and justice for victims and their families.
The report gathered testimonies and found evidence of “widespread and systematic perpetration of enforced disappearances, extermination, murder, torture and imprisonment, amounting to crimes against humanity in Tarhuna.
“These were committed by Al Kani (Kaniyat) militias,’’ he said.
Auajjar noted that the mission’s investigations “previously uncovered mass graves in the town’’ which is around 65 kilometres from Tripoli, through the use of advanced technology.
“We don’t know how many now need to be exhumed, but there have been hundreds of persons who have not yet been discovered; who have disappeared,’’ he added.
According to him, more than 200 individuals are still missing from Tarhuna and the surrounding area, causing “untold anguish to their families, who are entitled to know the truth about the fate of their loved ones’’.
Women and girls have not been spared the fallout of Libya’s destructive spiral since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Auajjar said that in spite of recent progress in trying to resolve longstanding differences, the internationally-recognised government in Tripoli was still at odds with a rival administration and parliamentary authority in the east.
He noted that a disturbing finding was the fact that women, who presented themselves in yet-to-be-held national elections, became targets of discrimination or violence.
“Some have been abducted, part of a pattern of enforced disappearances which continue unabated in Libya,’’ Aujjar said, citing a member of Parliament, Sihem Sirgiwa, who was taken in 2019.
“Discrimination and violence are a feature of daily life for most women and girls in Libya.
“Of particular concern to the Mission is that the failure of the domestic law to provide protection against sexual and gender-based violence is inherent to and contributes to impunity for such crimes,” he said.
Aujjar noted also that cases of violence against women and children, summary executions, arbitrary detention, sexual and gender-based violence and torture had been on the rise
He stressed that this was in spite of the creation of two dedicated courts to rule on such crimes.
The Fact-Finding Mission is to present its third report to the Human Rights Council on Wednesday, July 6.