Update April 2022

From Atrocities Watch Monitor No. 3

April 2022. Read full newsletter here

Tensions continued in March between Dbeibah, who was named Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity a year ago, and Bashagha, who was appointed by the House of Representatives (HOR), based in the East, to replace the former at the beginning of March when they claimed that his mandate had expired when the elections fell apart. Bashagha has instructed all government institutions to disregard all Dibebah’s instructions.101 On 10 March news that Bashagha would enter the capital to carry out his duties, led to large military movements by armed convoys supporting him as well as brigades loyal to Dibebah to stop him.102 Bashagha ended the month asserting that he would soon take control of Tripoli, and that he had already taken steps towards assuming power.103

The assessments in the international community on the likelihood of this standoff leading to armed conflict differ. So far Bashagha has vowed not to use force.104

Attacks against freedom of speech are also of concern. A recent investigation indicates at least seven young men were arrested between November 2021 and March 2022 by the Libyan Internal Security Services (ISS), affiliated with the Presidential Council of the GNU. These activists, human rights defenders and individuals had recently discussed human rights concerns online and are believed be detained in facilities controlled by radical armed group. On 6 March 2022, a blogger and former member of the ISS was killed by members of the Misrata Joint Operations forces after speaking out online about being detained and later released by these forces.105


In March 2021, the transitional Government of National Unity (GNU) began preparing the nation for presidential elections in December 2021, these did not take place and have been postponed with no clear date in sight.

In early March 2022, parliament appointed a new premier, Fathi Bashaga, to replace Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. Parliament argues that it has the authority to name Bashaga because Dbeibah’s mandate officially ended December 24, 2021. However, Dbeibah says that he will only hand over power to a government emanating from a newly elected parliament.106 Dbeibah announced plans for presidential elections in June, an exact date has not been set.107

International response

On 16 March 2022, UN Under-Secretary General Rosemary DiCarlo briefed the UN Security Council on continuing political tensions in Libya. She reported an increase in human rights violations and hate speech, noting “Libya is now facing a new phase of political polarization, which risks dividing its institutions once again and reversing the gains achieved over the past two years.”108

UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Stephanie Williams, indicated the United Nations announced a joint committee with members of the House of Representatives (HoR) as well as the High State Council (HSC) to build consensus on a basis for elections. On 15 March the HSC nominated its representatives to the joint committee. The UN has yet to receive the list of the HOR’s representatives.109 Williams also remarked that until elections took place neither the Tripoli nor Tobruk authorities had a real mandate, as mentioned previously, she also offered her good offices to mediate between Dbeibah and Bashagha to overcome the political impasse.110 On 22 March, Williams met with the delegation of the HCS nominated to join the UN-facilitated joint committee.111

On 4 March, the governments of France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America released a joint statement calling on all actors to “refrain from all actions that could undermine the stability Libya,” and that all five governments would hold accountable those who threatened the stability through violence or incitement.112

An early report from the UN’s fact-finding mission to Libya was released at the end of March. The mission focused on widespread and systematic violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. They found that violations affecting the transition to democracy including acts of intimidation, threats of violence to members of the legal community and abductions have occurred, especially in the build-up to the December 2021 election date.113

The report focused on secret detention facilities currently in operation and concluded there are reasonable grounds to believe that serious violations are being committed there. Arbitrary arrest and detention of civilians have occurred with regularity since 2016, in many cases such crimes have amounted to enforced disappearances. Migrants also continue to be targeted, including for acts of murder, torture, rape, persecution, and enslavement by State authorities, militias, armed groups, and traffickers. Sexual and gender-based violence is common in migration detention centres as well as outside of that context, which leads in many cases to women not taking part in public life.114


101 The Libya Observer, “Bashagha urges government institutions not to abide by unity government’s orders,” 22 March 2022, https://www.libyaobserver.ly/news/bashagha-urges-government-institutions-not- abide-unity-government%E2%80%99s-orders

102 Middle East Monitor, “Calm in Libya following military mobilisation of Dbeibeh and Bashagha supporters,” 12 March 2022, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20220312-calm-in-libya-following- military-mobilisation-of-dbeibeh-and-bashagha-supporters/

103 The Libya Observer, “Bashagha says his government will only start work from Tripoli,” 27 March 2022, https://www.libyaobserver.ly/news/bashagha-says-his-government-will-only-start-work-tripoli

104 International Crisis Group, “Steering Libya Past Another Perilous Crossroads,” 18 March 2022, https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/north-africa/libya/b85-steering-libya-past-another- perilous-crossroads

105105 Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, “Libya: Terrorization of civil society on moral and religious grounds highlights impunity of radical armed groups,” 18 Mach 2022, https://cihrs.org/libya-terrorization- of-civil-society-on-moral-and-religious-grounds-highlights-impunity-of-radical-armed-groups/?lang=en

106 The Arab Weekly, “Dbeibah said to reject Turkish mediation bid in Libya,” 8 March 2022, https://ahvalnews.com/turkey-libya/dbeibah-said-reject-turkish-mediation-bid-libya

107 Daily Sabah, “PM Dbeibah pushes summer election in Libya amid bid to oust him,” 22 February 2022, https://www.dailysabah.com/world/africa/pm-dbeibah-pushes-summer-election-in-libya-amid-bid-to-oust- him

108 “Tensions Rise in Libya As Risk of ‘Parallel Governments’ Grows, Security Council Hears,” UN News Service, 16 March 2022, https://allafrica.com/stories/202203170031.html?utm_campaign=daily- headlines&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&utm_content=aans-view-link

109 UNSMIL Statement on the UN – Facilitated Joint HOR/HCS Committee Meeting, 21 Mach 2022, https://unsmil.unmissions.org/unsmil-statement-un-facilitated-joint-horhcs-committee-meeting

110 The Libya Update, “Political stalemate in Libya must be resolved internally, says UN advisor,” 13 March 2022, https://libyaupdate.com/political-stalemate-in-libya-must-be-resolved-internally-says-un- advisor/

111 Stephanie Turco Williams tweet, 25, March 2022, https://twitter.com/SASGonLibya/status/1507392733186510848

112 Libya Alahrar, “Five western powers threaten sanctions on Libya political transition spoilers,” 6 March 2022, https://libyaalahrar.net/five-western-powers-threaten-sanctions-on-libya-political-transition-spoilers/ 113A/HRC/49/4 UN Human Rights Council, “Report of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya,” 23 March 2022, https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2022/03/fact-finding-mission-libya-human-rights- violations-are-impeding-transition

114 Ibid.