London, 5th July 2019
Tactics Institute for Security & Counter Terrorism condemns the airstrike that killed at least 40 people and injured at least 80 others at a migrant detention center near the capital city of Libya, Tripoli on Wednesday, and calls for a diplomatic, political resolution to the Libyan crisis.
The detention facility housed mostly African migrants and the UN-backed Government of National Accord has blamed the opposition Libyan National Army, led by General Khalifa Haftar for the atrocity. Violence around Tripoli has been mounting since Haftar’s forces launched an offensive to capture the city in April. Human rights groups say both sides may have committed war crimes by attacking heavily populated civilian areas.
Tactics Institute is alarmed by both the current and potential human rights and humanitarian costs of the violence.
The airstrike followed an escalation of hostilities in an increasingly complex war in which proxies are involved. Forces loyal to Haftar recently downed a Turkish drone and captured six Turkish soldiers before releasing them.
Turkey supports the government of national accord, which is also backed by the United Nations as an interim regime that will enable the transition to democracy. The Haftar assault on Tripoli brings with it the prospect of a dramatic and costly escalation and requires an urgent political solution.
Haftar’s argument is that the Libyan government uses militias supported by both Turkey and Qatar. He is supported by the military government of Egypt, politically and militarily.
Tactics Institute Director Thomas Charles stated: “The Institute believes that the regional powers involved in Libya need to apply their influence to force a political settlement that respects the rights of all people in Libya and pave the way for a lasting and stable peace”.
Libya has been in crisis since 2011, when the NATO assault overthrew the country’s government and set off a chain of events that have mired the North African state in conflict and crisis as a range of tribes have sought control in the power vacuum that emerged after the NATO attack. Competing fiefdoms were established across Libya, which then formed armed militias to try to increase their power.
Commander Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army (LNA,) a faction that is loyal to the Tobruk government in the east of the country, attacked Tripoli earlier this year, on April 4th. This was despite a UN-mediated peace process between the internationally-recognised government of Libya, known as the Government of National Accord, and Haftar’s group in the eastern side of the country.
Amnesty International has expressed grave concerns regarding Haftar’s insurgency: “As the battle for Tripoli unfolds, the warring parties have displayed a shameful disregard for civilian safety and international humanitarian law by carrying out indiscriminate attacks on residential neighbourhoods,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty.
The LNA has claimed that it was attempting a restoration of security and a move against terroristm. Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj of the Government of National Accord described the April attack as a coup.
According to the World Health Organization, hundreds were killed thousands injured in the April offensive, continuing the pattern of lawlessness, instability and violence that has characterised Libya since 2011.
The numbers fleeing violence and poverty in the Middle East and Africa in the past decade is in the millions and Libya has been the gateway to Europe for many of those desperate to pursue hopes of a better life. European countries have tightened both borders and immigration policies in response to the crisis and European Union institutions and members have provided millions of euros to the internationally-recognised government for its attempts to stop boats leaving the country and detain people who are fleeing.
Conditions in these detention centres have been described as “nightmarish” by Human Rights Watch: people “face inhuman and degrading conditions and the risk of torture, sexual violence, extortion, and forced labour.”
The US remains the country with the most clout in Libya, but contradictory statements have emerged from Washington, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemning Haftar’s advance on April 7th. A week later President Donald Trump praised Haftar for his “significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources,” according to a White House statement. According to the statement, the two also “discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.” And at a Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing this month a panel of independent experts was asked whether they could characterize the US State Department’s position on the Libyan conflict. They were unable to answer.
Tactics Institute for Security and Counter Terrorism is an independent, non-partisan, think tank. Tactics researches terrorism to identify its causes and best possible remedies, always bearing in mind the protection of individual liberties and the human rights of all those affected.
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