UN rights experts sound alarm on wave of enforced disappearances in Libya

Jeremy Sarkin, chairman of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances [file photo]

24 March 2011 – A group of independent United Nations human rights experts today voiced deep concern about hundreds of alleged enforced disappearances that have taken place in recent months in Libya, where what started as peaceful civilian protests demanding the ouster of Muammar Al-Qadhafi has turned into a violent military crackdown by the regime of the opposition.

“Enforced disappearances may amount to a crime against humanity when perpetrated in certain circumstances,” warned the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

According to information received by the group, which is tasked with assisting families determine the fate or whereabouts of disappeared relatives, hundreds of people have been taken to undisclosed locations where they might have been submitted to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatments or executed.

In most of the cases reported, the fate and the whereabouts of these persons are still unknown, the group noted in a news release, calling on all States to eradicate the practice of enforced disappearance.

The group is comprised of five independent experts: Chair-Rapporteur Jeremy Sarkin (South Africa), Ariel Dulitkzy (Argentina), Jasminka Dzumhur (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Osman El-Hajjé (Lebanon) and Olivier de Frouville (France).

The crisis in Libya, where public protests erupted earlier this year as part of a wider movement calling for reform across North Africa and the Middle East, has led to widespread displacement, attacks on civilians and human rights abuses. Some 325,000 people have fled the violence in Libya, most of them non-Libyan migrants crossing over to Tunisia and Egypt.

Last week the UN Security Council adopted a resolution by which it set up a no-fly zone over Libya, authorized Member States to take “all necessary measures” for the protection for civilians, and called for an immediate ceasefire.


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