Libya: continuing atrocities must compel States to establish an International Investigative mechanism at the UN Human Rights Council

Libya: continuing atrocities must compel States to establish an International Investigative mechanism at the UN Human Rights Council

Member States convening today for the resumption of the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council should support the establishment of an international investigative mechanism to document and preserve evidence of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law (IHL) committed in Libya, said the ICJ and Lawyers for Justice in Libya.

The escalation in armed conflict in recent months and ongoing impunity for an increasing number of violations and abuses being committed in Libya lend particular urgency to the establishment of a mechanism for a period of at least one year to investigate all gross human rights violations and abuses and serious violations of IHL, with a view to preserving evidence and holding perpetrators accountable.

“Horrific reports documenting the discovery of mass graves are the latest addition to a long line of well-established atrocities perpetrated across Libya,” said Kate Vigneswaran, Senior Legal Adviser at the ICJ’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “Impunity for these crimes has proven only to prompt further violence and prolong the conflict.”

On 11 June 2020, the United National Support Mission to Libya reported the discovery of at least eight mass graves, located predominantly in Tarhuna,  a town located southeast of Tripoli.

Though exhumations have only just commenced, initial reports by the Government of National Accord (GNA) indicate that they could contain hundreds of bodies, including of women and children.

Reports further indicate that the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF), and their foreign allies, have laid anti-personnel landmines and other booby-traps in buildings as they withdrew from Tripoli, leading to causalities including among civilians returning to their homes after long periods of displacement.

Reports of incidents involving “retributive crimes”, including the parading of corpses and looting of perceived opponents’ houses and public property, by GNA-affiliated armed groups have also surfaced.

“The systematic and ubiquitous nature of these violations reinforces the need for States to urgently push for mechanisms designed to address accountability and fight prevailing impunity. The establishment of an international investigative mechanism would not only pave the way towards obtaining justice for the victims and preserving evidence necessary for doing so, but also send a strong and unequivocal message that those who commit crimes will be held accountable,” said Marwa Mohamed, Head of Advocacy and Outreach at Lawyers for Justice in Libya.

An international investigative mechanism would bolster accountability efforts in the country, which have, thus far, been impeded by cycles of violence, weak and ineffective law enforcement agencies, the arbitrary exercise of policing and detention powers by armed groups and an inadequate legal framework for holding perpetrators of crimes under international law accountable.

States will vote on the resolution on Libya (UN Doc A/HRC/43/L.40) following the interactive dialogue on the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Report on Libya on 18 June 2020.

The 43rd session of the Human Rights Council commenced in February 2020, but was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Kate Vigneswaran, Senior Legal Adviser, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +31624894664 ; e: kate.vigneswaran(a);


A variety of armed groups have been engaged in recurrent waves of armed conflict since the 2011 uprising. These include the forces of the GNA, established in 2016, which is the internationally recognized State governing authority and is supported by armed groups acting either under their control or in alignment or alliance with it, and the LAAF, which is headed by Khalifa Haftar, who was endorsed by the House of Representatives after launching his military campaign in 2014, and is composed of a mixture of military units and armed groups.

The GNA generally has control over territory in the west, and the LAAF exercises a significant degree of control over territories in the east and parts of the south. In April 2019, the LAAF marched on Tripoli gaining further territorial control in parts of the west, but such gains have been reduced over recent weeks following the escalation in hostilities with the GNA and the LAAF’s consequent retreat.

Reports by UNSMIL and other international bodies and non-government organizations document the gross human rights violations and abuses and serious violations of IHL being committed by all parties to the conflicts in Libya. These include unlawful killings resulting from direct, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks against persons not engaged in hostilities; attacks on civilian objects including medical facilities and equipment; torture and ill-treatment, including acts of sexual violence and the crime of rape; arbitrary arrests and detention; forced displacement; enforced disappearances; and extrajudicial killings. These violations and abuses have led to mass internal displacement, including of over 200,000 people since April 2019 from Tripoli and its outskirts.

Libya-Atrocities need investigation-News-2020-ARA (story in Arabic, PDF)

ICJ holds seminar at Chiang Mai University Thailand on the right to life and the duty to investigate

ICJ holds seminar at Chiang Mai University Thailand on the right to life and the duty to investigate

On 5 June 2018, the ICJ co-organized an academic seminar addressing the right to life under international law and the State’s duty to effectively investigate alleged violations.

The event happened on the eve of the post mortem decision to be delivered by Chiang Mai Provincial Court in the case of Chaiyaphum Pasae.

The Lahu youth activist was killed by a military official who was attempting to arrest him as an alleged drug suspect in Chiang Dao district of Thailand’s northern Chiang Mai province in March 2017.

Officials claimed Chaiyaphum had resisted arrest and was subsequently shot in “an act of self-defence”.

On 6 June 2018, Chiang Mai Provincial Court ruled that the bullets shot by the military official had caused the death of Chaiyaphum Pasae.

In its decision, the court made no finding of fault and no finding as to whether Chaiyaphum Pasae had resisted arrest before his death.

The decision by Chiang Mai Provincial Court will now be sent on to the Public Prosecutor and inquiry officers, who will in parallel continue criminal investigations into the case.

The Public Prosecutor is expected thereafter to make a decision regarding any indictment of the military official who shot at Chaiyaphum Pasae.

Participants in the seminar, which was held at Chiang Mai University’s Art Center, included Chaiyaphum Pasae’s family members, interested members of the public, media representatives, students and academics.

Kingsley Abbott, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser, addressed the seminar on the right to life and the international law and standards that apply to investigating potentially unlawful deaths, including the rights of victims and family members, referring to the standards set out in the revised Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016), which was launched in Thailand on 25 May 2017.

The event follows the ICJ’s first regional workshop on the investigation of potentially unlawful deaths and enforced disappearance in Asia, held last week in Bangkok for authorities from Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Nepal.

Other speakers at the Workshop included Ratsada Manuratsada and Sumitchai Hattasarn, lawyers from Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA) who represented the family of Chaiyaphum Pasae, and Songkran Pongbunchan, a lecturer from Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Law.

The Discussion was conducted in collaboration with Legal Research and Development Center Chiang Mai University (LRDC); Center for Protection and Revival of Local Community Rights (CPCR); Center for Ethnic Studies and Development Chiang Mai University (CESD); Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA); Protection International (PI); Holding Hands Group; Inter Mountain Peoples’ Education and Culture in Thailand Association (IMPECT); Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF); Maayimstudio; Save Lahu Group; Lanyim Creative Group; Dinsorsee Creative Group; Northern Activist Community (CAN); and Tonkal Network.

This seminar is part of an ongoing engagement between the ICJ and Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Law.


Kingsley Abbott, Senior Legal Adviser, ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Office, t: +66 94 470 1345, e:

Venezuela: ICJ calls for follow up action by Human Rights Committee and Special Procedures

Venezuela: ICJ calls for follow up action by Human Rights Committee and Special Procedures

The ICJ today called on the UN Human Rights Committee and a group of UN Special Procedure mandates to take urgent follow up action on Venezuela in light of the grave and ever deteriorating human rights situation in the country.

In a letter to the UN Human Rights Committee, the treaty body responsible for monitoring implementation by States parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the ICJ called for urgent action by the Committee, either through its established follow-up procedure and/or through requesting a special interim report. The Committee’s follow-up procedure was referenced in the Committee’s Concluding Observations on Venezuela’s fourth periodic report under the ICCPR. Special interim reports may be requested by the Committee under Article 40(1)(b) of the ICCPR.

The ICJ also called for urgent action to be taken by the following UN Special Procedure mandates: the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of assembly and of association, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. This group of Special Procedure mandates had on 4 August 2017 issued a joint statement on the human rights situation in Venezuela.

The ICJ’s letters draw attention to several critical areas of concern:

  • The rapidly deteriorating human rights situation;
  • The lack of accountability of perpetrators of human rights violations;
  • The lack of effective remedies and reparation for victims of human rights violations;
  • The lack of independence of the judiciary;
  • The institutional crisis arising from decisions of the Supreme Court of Justice;
  • The unconstitutional election of the new National Constituent Assembly;
  • The dismissal of the former Attorney General;
  • The recent establishment of a ‘Truth Commission’;
  • The intended revision of Venezuela’s Constitution; and
  • Venezuela’s failure to notify its state of emergency under the ICCPR.

ICJ-Correspondence-VenezuelaFollowUp-HRCttee-2017-09-28 (download letter to the Human Rights Committee, in PDF)

ICJ-Correspondence-VenezuelaFollowUp-SPs-2017-09-28 (download letter to the Special Procedure mandates, in PDF)

ICJ reports:

Venezuela: the Supreme Court of Justice has become an arm of an authoritarian executive

Venezuela: rule of law and impunity crisis deepens

Venezuela: dismissal of Attorney General a further blow to the rule of law and accountability

Venezuela: Human rights and Rule of Law in deep crisis

Strengthening the Rule of Law in Venezuela

Thailand: strengthen efforts to solve the apparent enforced disappearance of “Billy”

Thailand: strengthen efforts to solve the apparent enforced disappearance of “Billy”

Thailand must strengthen its efforts to solve the apparent enforced disappearance of Karen human rights defender, Pholachi “Billy” Rakchongcharoen, who “disappeared” one year ago this Friday, said the ICJ.

“Thailand must strengthen its efforts to carry out a thorough and effective investigation into Billy’s fate and whereabouts in a manner that complies with its international obligations,” said Kingsley Abbott, International Legal Adviser at the ICJ.

“As part of this process, it is essential that the authorities evaluate the investigation objectively to ensure it has been carried out independently and impartially, that the necessary resources have been allocated, and that all investigative opportunities have been pursued,” he added.

The ICJ reiterates its call for the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) to assume responsibility for the investigation because of the need for the DSI’s special expertise.

The DSI has the power to assume jurisdiction over special criminal cases including complex cases that require special inquiry, crimes committed by organized criminal groups, and cases where the principal is an influential person.

A six-day habeas corpus inquiry monitored by the ICJ and which concluded on 17 July 2014, and a subsequent appeal delivered on 26 February 2015, were unsuccessful in shedding any light on Billy’s fate or whereabouts.

Thailand, as a Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is required to investigate, prosecute, punish and provide a remedy and reparation for the crime of enforced disappearance.


Billy (photo) was last seen on 17 April 2014 in the custody of Kaeng Krachan National Park officials. The officials claimed they detained Billy for illegal possession of honey but released him later the same day.

Billy had been working with ethnic Karen villagers and activists on legal proceedings the villagers had filed against the National Park, the Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, and the former Chief of Kaeng Krachan National Park concerning the alleged burning of villagers’ homes and property in the National Park in 2010 and 2011.

The Royal Thai Government has signaled its recognition of the gravity of the crime of enforced disappearance, and its commitment to combating it, by signing the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on 9 January 2012.

The Convention affirms the absolute right not to be subject to enforced disappearance and places an obligation on states to investigate acts of enforced disappearance and to make it a criminal offence punishable by appropriate penalties that take into account its “extreme seriousness”, and to take the necessary measures to bring those responsible to justice.


Kingsley Abbott, ICJ International Legal Adviser, t: +66 (0) 94 470 1345 ; e:

Thailand-Billy one year-News-PressRelease-2015-THA (full text in PDF)

Egypt: investigate and address human rights abuses following the ouster of President Morsi

Egypt: investigate and address human rights abuses following the ouster of President Morsi

The ICJ calls on Egyptian authorities to conduct a thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigation into the unlawful and excessive use of force by security and armed forces, in particular during the dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adawyia and Annahda pro-Morsi sit-ins on 14 August.

The statement comes as the ICJ concluded a high-level mission on 29 August to assess the human rights and rule of law situation in Egypt following the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi by the armed forces.

The use of live ammunition to disperse the sit-ins and against pro-Morsi protesters has resulted in the deaths of more than 1000 individuals, most of which appear to amount to unlawful killings.

The investigation should also examine violent attacks by some pro-Morsi supporters, including the use of firearms, against security officers, police stations, and bystanders, and attacks on religious minorities, in particular Christians, their churches, buildings, and homes.

“The Egyptian authorities should investigate the unlawful use of live ammunition against protesters with a view to holding the perpetrators to account, providing remedy and reparation to the victims, and ending the impunity the security and armed forces have enjoyed over human rights abuses,” said ICJ Commissioner Kalthoum Kennou. “In policing demonstrations, security must act to safeguard the right to life, in particular by ensuring that the decision to use lethal firearms is made only when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.”

The ICJ is also concerned that following the crackdown, thousands of people were arrested under conditions that violate due process guarantees, in particular the rights to have access to a lawyer and to family members.

Hundreds are also reportedly missing and the ICJ fears many of them have been subjected to enforced disappearance.

Hearings for renewing pre-trial detentions orders are conducted in prisons and, as a result of the large number of detainees, most are either not represented by legal counsel, or are not able to have access to and to consult with their lawyers. Many of the detainees are being held arbitrarily under administrative detention, the ICJ further notes.

“The Egyptian authorities must ensure the rights of those arrested to liberty, security of person, to have access to lawyers and family members and to challenge the lawfulness of their detention, ” said ICJ Commissioner Shawan Jabarin ” the Egyptian authorities must fully communicate the list of all the detainees, their places of detentions and the fate and whereabouts of the hundreds who are reportedly missing. They must also comply with their legal obligations under international law and ensure that no one is subjected to enforced disappearance.”

The Office of the Public Prosecutor has charged thousands of individuals who were arrested following the ouster of president Morsi and the dispersal of the sit-ins, including with “ attempted murder”, “opposing authorities”, “attacking law enforcement officials”, “causing disorder”, “blocking roads” and “throwing Molotov cocktails at the police”.

The office also charged President Morsi and his advisers, including leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, with, among other charges, “inciting followers to commit premeditated murder, use of force, use of firearms and illegal attacks on authorities.”

Moreover, seventy-five judges who called for the reinstatement of former President Morsi have been investigated by an investigating judge, appointed by the Minster of Justice, for “backing a particular political party and deviating from judicial traditions and its values of neutrality, impartiality and non-partisanship.”

The ICJ notes, however, that neither the Office of the Public Prosecutor nor the Minister of Justice have so far investigated, ordered the investigation, or brought criminal action for the unlawful killings of protesters by armed and security forces following the ouster of President Morsi.

In meetings with the ICJ delegation, state officials, including the Minister of Justice, argued that the use of live ammunition and lethal force to disperse sit-ins was legitimate and in line with both national and international standards.

“In times of crisis, judges and prosecutors must safeguard and uphold the rule of law, not curtail the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms,” said Said Benarbia, ICJ Senior Legal Advisor for the Middle East & North Africa Programme.

“The Egyptian authorities must therefore ensure that the Office of the Public Prosecutor and courts are not politicized or used as a means to crackdown on political opponents and protesters, or to shield armed and security officials responsible of human rights abuses from accountability,” Benarbia added.


Said Benarbia, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, tel: 41 22 979 38 17, e-mail: said.benarbia(a)

Additional information:

The ICJ delegation was led by Justice Kalthoum Kennou, judge at the Tunisian Cassation Court and ICJ Commissioner, and Mr. Shawan Jabarin, ICJ Commissioner and General Director of Al-Haq, an ICJ affiliate in the occupied Palestinian territories. The delegation met with Minister of Justice Adel Abdelhamed Abdullah, Minister of Transitional Justice and National Reconciliation Amin El Mahdi, members of the judiciary, including President of the Judges Club Ahmed El Zend, lawyers, civil society, and families of victims of human rights violations after the dismissal of former President Mohamed Morsi.


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