Top UN humanitarian official in Libya calls for immediate release of abducted aid workers

Humanitarian food assistance at the Zintan main food warehouse in the Nafusa Mountains, Libya. Photo: OCHA/Jihan El Alaily

3 November 2015 – The top UN relief official in Libya today condemned the abduction of two aid workers in southern Libya and warned that persistent threats against humanitarian workers is hindering the delivery of crucial aid to those in need in that part of the war-torn country.

“Those humanitarian workers have gone out of their way – 400 kilometres (250 miles) away from their hometown – to assist their fellow country folks despite the risks entailed. They deserve to be appreciated, not abducted,” said UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Ali Al-Za’tari.

The two men – Mohamed al-Monsef Ali al-Sha’lali and Walid Ramadan Salhub – work for the Shaik Tahir Azzawy Charity Organization, a partner for a number of international humanitarian agencies, and were abducted on 5 June 2015 in al-Shwayrif in southern Libya while on their way to deliver humanitarian assistance to areas in southwestern Libya.

“This continued abduction is undermining the efforts to distribute much-needed humanitarian assistance to the most affected communities in Libya,” Mr. Al-Za’tari said. “The Libyan people in the south, who need the assistance the most, are victims paying the price because this abduction is compromising the distribution of aid to them,” he said.

Calling for their “immediate and unconditional release,” the UN official appealed to Libyans in position of responsibility and influence to intervene to ensure the release of the two workers, and drew attention to the fact that hostage-taking and intentionally directing attacks against civilian personnel involved in humanitarian assistance are war crimes.

Libya has been plagued by factional fighting since the 2011 revolution, with the situation continuing to deteriorate in recent months amid significant political fragmentation and violence.

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