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.


Key qualities for the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN statement)

Key qualities for the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UN statement)

The ICJ and other NGOs today highlighted the need for the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to maintain a strong voice and independent voice for human rights.

The statement was delivered by International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), on behalf of a number of NGOs, during a general debate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. It read as follows:

“Thank you Mr. President,

We want to highlight key features for the next High Commissioner – the world’s premier human rights defender – whose mandate includes providing technical assistance and capacity building to States, as well as standing up for universal human rights and those who defend them.

The work of the next High Commissioner, and of human rights defenders more broadly, is essential to justice, fairness and dignity for all. Defenders contribute to sustainable and inclusive development. They combat corruption and the misuse of power. They promote good government, transparency and accountability. They seek to ensure that no-one gets left behind.

Despite this, around the world, defenders face mounting attacks and criminalisation for standing up to power, privilege, prejudice and profit. Their work has never been more important, nor more imperiled.

Mr President, it is in this context we say that the next UN High Commissioner needs to be a dedicated human rights defender. They need to be committed to working with and for human rights defenders; consulting and partnering with them, supporting their causes, and speaking out and protecting them when they are threatened or attacked.

The next High Commissioner needs to build strategic alliances with States, civil society, academics and business enterprises with a shared interest in human rights and the rule of law. They need to be fiercely independent, but also collaborative and capable of building influential partnerships and coalitions.

With the promotion, protection and realisation of human rights being linked to the attainment of peace, security and sustainable development, the next High Commissioner needs to be strongly supported by the UN Secretary-General and key UN agencies. Mr President, while the High Commissioner may be the UN’s premier human rights defender, it is time for the entire organisation to put human rights defenders up front.”

International Service for Human Rights

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

Human Rights House Foundation

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA)


Peace Brigades International Switzerland

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues (FIDH)

Conectas Direitos Humanos

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

West African Human Rights Networks

International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)


NGO statement on meeting of UN treaty body chairs

NGO statement on meeting of UN treaty body chairs

A Joint NGO Statement was issued on the occasion of the Twenty-ninth meeting of UN treaty body chairs 27-30 June 2017, New York

This statement includes some reflections and recommendations, by the undersigned organisations (see list on p.6-7), in relation to the programme of work for the 2017 annual meeting.

Some of the comments and recommendations stem from a two-day consultation involving representatives of NGOs, States, treaty body members, OHCHR and academics, which took place in Geneva on 23-24 May 20171.

The consultation focused on developing a strategy for the Treaty Body strengthening process.

A report will shortly be made public.

The comments and recommendations below are structured around the substantive treaty body chairs meeting agenda items.

Universal-MeetingTreatyBodies-Advocacy-2017-ENG (full text in PDF)

Situación de derechos humanos en Colombia: Consejo de Derechos Humanos de Naciones Unidas

Situación de derechos humanos en Colombia: Consejo de Derechos Humanos de Naciones Unidas

La Comisión Colombiana de Juristas afiliada a la Comisión Internacional de Juristas resaltan el valioso aporte de la Oficina del Alto Comisionado durante estos 18 años en Colombia.

25° período de sesiones, Consejo de Derechos Humanos de Naciones Unidas
Tema 2 de la agenda, Informe anual de la Alta Comisionada de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos sobre la situación de derechos humanos en Colombia (A/HRC/28/3/Add.3)

Situación de derechos humanos en Colombia

25 de marzo de 2015

Señor Presidente:

La Comisión Colombiana de Juristas afiliada a la Comisión Internacional de Juristas resaltan el valioso aporte de la Oficina del Alto Comisionado durante estos 18 años en Colombia: tiene oficinas en varias regiones y trabaja con comunidades afectadas por el conflicto armado; ha contribuido “a cambios positivos a través de su observación, incidencia, declaraciones públicas, buenos oficios y cooperación técnica”; “[h]a presentado informes periódicos a entidades gubernamentales; ha actuado como garante en conflictos (…); ha interactuado a diario con el Estado y la sociedad civil para encontrar soluciones a los desafíos de derechos humanos (…); y ha contribuido al fortalecimiento de las instituciones” (párrafo 2).

Pese a ciertos avances en derechos humanos, el Informe anual resalta los retos en materia de implementación, falta de voluntad política para aceptar la responsabilidad por violaciones del pasado1, desigualdades económicas y “un acceso asimétrico a los derechos y a los servicios públicos” (párrafo 14). Además, Colombia todavía actúa en contra de sus obligaciones internacionales, como sucede con el derecho a la consulta previa (párrafo 26) o la ampliación de la justicia militar (párrafo 60). Adicionalmente, Colombia no recibe procedimientos especiales desde 2010, aunque cuenta con una invitación permanente y seis mandatos han solicitado visita2.

Después de 18 años invertidos en el país, la Oficina sigue siendo los ojos de la comunidad internacional para derechos humanos, y el acompañante o asesor del Estado en el diseño de sus políticas (párrafos 16, 29, 34, 60).

Según el Informe, el Gobierno y las FARC-EP han logrado avances sin precedentes para poner fin al conflicto armado (párrafo 6). Si “[l]a perspectiva de una salida negociada al conflicto (…) y el crecimiento económico proporcionan una oportunidad única para ampliar la presencia del Estado, hacer frente a la desigualdad y mejorar la situación de los derechos humanos” (párrafo 19), indiscutiblemente la Oficina del Alto Comisionado en Colombia es una inversión clave, y no es de corto plazo.

Gracias señor Presidente.

1 El párrafo 58 dice: “El rechazo de responsabilidades por parte de las fuerzas armadas y de sus superiores políticos perpetúa la impunidad, socava la legitimidad institucional y erosiona el estado de derecho”.
2 Colombia cuenta con una invitación permanente a los procedimientos especiales de la ONU desde el 17 de marzo de 2003. Sin embargo, desde inicios de 2012 no ha aceptado ninguna visita, aunque los mandatos sobre extrema pobreza, personas internamente desplazadas, violencia contra la mujer, afrodescendientes, mercenarios y alimentación han solicitado visitar el país.


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