Libya: Q&A on the UN International Fact-Finding Mission

Libya: Q&A on the UN International Fact-Finding Mission

Justice and accountability in Libya can only be achieved if activists and lawyers fully engage with and support the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (FFM) in documenting and collecting evidence of serious violations in the country, the ICJ said today.

To facilitate such engagement, the ICJ’s Question and Answer (Q&A) published today provides guidance for Libyan and international civil society actors on:

  • the role and mandate of the FFM;
  • the FFM’s relationship with other accountability mechanisms, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC);
  • what the FFM may be expected to achieve; and
  • how to engage with the FFM.

“The success of the FFM’s mandate rests largely on its ability to establish the facts about and collect evidence of violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated in Libya.”

“We urge lawyers, activists and civil society actors to fully support the FFM in achieving these objectives and bringing about the accountability that has so far eluded Libya.”

– Said Benarbia, the ICJ’s MENA Programme Director.

The FFM was established by the UN Human Rights Council on 22 June 2020 through resolution 43/39. Its mandate includes:

  • Establishing facts and circumstances of the human rights situation throughout Libya;
  • Collecting and reviewing relevant information;
  • Documenting alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including any gendered dimensions of such violations and abuses; and
  • Preserving evidence with a view to ensuring that perpetrators be held accountable.

While the FFM cannot conduct criminal investigations or prosecute individuals, the evidence preserved may be used by Libyan judicial authorities, the ICC, and third countries exercising universal jurisdiction.

The FFM has issued a call for submissions of relevant information and materials, the deadline for which is 30 June 2021.


Said Benarbia, Director, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme; t: +41 22 979 3817, e: said.benarbia(a)

Vito Todeschini, Legal Adviser, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme; t: +216 53 334 679, e: vito.todeschini(a)

Asser Khattab, Research and Communications Officer, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme; e: Asser.Khattab(a)


Q&A on the UN International Fact-Finding Mission in English and Arabic.

Press Release in English and Arabic.

Libya: Fact-Finding Mission a positive step towards accountability, which must be dispatched urgently

Libya: Fact-Finding Mission a positive step towards accountability, which must be dispatched urgently

The ICJ welcomes the establishment of a Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) for Libya by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) at its 43rd session yesterday.

The resolution, titled “Technical assistance and capacity-building to improve human rights in Libya,” mandates the FFM to investigate and preserve evidence of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law committed by all parties in Libya since the beginning of 2016, with a view to ensuring that perpetrators be held to account.

“This is a long overdue step in the pursuit of accountability in Libya,” said Said Benarbia, the ICJ’s MENA Programme Director.

“While parties to the conflict have escalated hostilities in recent years and Libyans have been increasingly subject to egregious violations of their rights, States have continued to prioritize politics over justice. The establishment of the FFM is a sign that international actors finally recognize accountability is necessary to end the scourge of violence in the country.”

The FFM is required to submit its written report to the HRC at the 46th session in February-March 2021, giving the FFM only nine months to carry out its work despite the ongoing imposition of COVID-19 measures that will impact its operations.

Given the FFM’s short operational period, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will have to move rapidly to appoint FFM experts and staff, allocate adequate resources and dispatch the mission. Staff appointed to the FFM should include experts in the investigation of sexual and gender-based violence crimes and the collection of evidence to a criminal standard.

“It’s imperative that the High Commissioner move quickly to dispatch this mission if it is to have any prospect of examining the full range of violations and abuses being committed across Libya,” said Kate Vigneswaran, the ICJ’s MENA Programme Senior Legal Adviser.

“The OHCHR should ensure the FFM has the full complement of skills and expertise to most effectively investigate crimes being committed in Libya, particularly the widespread sexual violence being perpetrated on women, girls, men and boys.”

The Government of National Accord, the Libyan Arab Armed Forces and all other parties to the conflict should fully cooperate with the FFM, including by granting access to the territories and population over which they have control, where possible in the context of COVID-19.

Other States, in particular those supporting Libyan actors in the ongoing conflict, should also provide full cooperation.

“The cooperation of both national and international actors is necessary for the FFM to engage with victims and preserve evidence, key components of its mandate,” Kate Vigneswaran added.

“While other international investigative mechanisms have shown it’s possible to carry out effective investigations without access to the affected territory, if Libyan actors are truly committed to the populations they assert they serve, they should be facilitating access to all forms of justice, whether national or international.”

The FFM will complement the work of the International Criminal Court in Libya, which has outstanding arrest warrants against Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled and Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli.

The evidence preserved by the FFM may be used by the ICC, as well as States exercising universal jurisdiction, in their investigations and prosecutions.


Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41 22 979 3817; e: said.benarbia(a)

Kate Vigneswaran, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser, t: +31 62 489 4664, e: kate.vigneswaran(a), twitter: @KateVigneswaran


Violations and abuses of international law, including unlawful killings and attacks on civilian objects, have continued unabated in the last few months. Most recently, on 11 June 2020, the UN Support Mission to Libya reported the discovery of at least eight mass graves, mainly in Tarhuna, in which the bodies of women and children were found. 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 ICJ has repeatedly called on States to support the establishment of an international investigative mechanism for Libya, including in the interactive dialogue on the oral update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation in Libya.

The draft of the resolution adopted yesterday was numbered A/HRC/43/L.40. The official adopted version will be published by the UN in the coming weeks.


The ICJ and Geneva Bar Association launch ambitious global project

The ICJ and Geneva Bar Association launch ambitious global project

The ICJ, the Geneva Bar Association and the Geneva legal community have joined forces to launch the ICJ-Geneva Lawyers International Cooperation Initiative. Under the Initiative, Geneva lawyers will join ICJ missions on the five continents to support the independence and integrity of lawyers and judges at risk, and to promote the Rule of Law.

The Initiative launches with a mission tomorrow, May 21st. A lawyer from the Geneva Bar Association will go to Guatemala to work the ICJ team and lawyers investigating and fighting the forced displacement of the indigenous community of La Laguna de El Petén.

Missions under the initiative will typically involve, among other things:

– Trial observations;

– Fact-finding missions;

– Support for the independence of lawyers and bar associations;

– Capacity building and training activities;

– Expertise and academic support.

Since its founding in 1952, the ICJ has played a unique and preeminent role as a non-governmental organization for the defense of the Rule of Law around the world, and the independence of judges and lawyers.

With the presence of its headquarters in Geneva for more than 60 years, through the Initiative the ICJ is further deepening its special bond with the city, to spread and share the spirit of Geneva.

“International support and solidarity are crucial to the work of lawyers defending the human rights of those who are often marginalized from power,” said Michaël Sombart, Director of Strategic Partnerships of the ICJ. “With this project the ICJ can help lawyers around the world benefit from the reputation and high standing of the Swiss legal community and bring the message of the Genève humanitaire beyond borders.”

“This initiative is welcome and we support it with commitment,” said Sandrine Giroud, member of the Geneva Bar Council and Chair of its Human Rights Commission. “The Rule of Law is under attack around the world and lawyers play a vital role in its defense and the impartiality of justice. Our support for the ICJ-Geneva Lawyers International Cooperation Initiative is in line with the lawyer’s mission as a bulwark against the arbitrariness and the defense advocacy tradition of the Geneva Bar Association. We welcome this collaboration, which is part of the fight for justice and respect for fundamental rights and guarantees. ”

Nicolas Gürtner, First Secretary of the Young Bar Association of the Geneva Bar Association, said: “This project offers a remarkable opportunity for young lawyers to work alongside the jurists of international repute of the ICJ in favour of the guarantee of Rule of Law.”

 The Steering Committee for the Initiative includes:

– The ICJ;

– For the Geneva Bar Association: the Commission on Human Rights and the Young Bar Association;

– Representatives of the Geneva judicial and academic world, including Professor Robert Roth, former President of the Court of Cassation, former director of the Geneva Academy, Professor Emeritus of the University of Geneva

Contact :

Michaël W. Sombart, ICJ, Director of Strategic Partnerships, t: +41 22 979 38 31 ; m: +41 77 965 98 45 ; e: michael.sombart(a)


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