Human Rights Defenders Under Attack

A UN human rights report released on Wednesday reveals a catalogue of violent attacks and threats against Libyan rights defenders, across Libya – and in some cases even after they are forced to leave the country.

Attacks, including killings, abductions, torture and other ill-treatment, unlawful deprivation of liberty and death threats by phone and on social media since the escalation of fighting in May 2014 have been documented in the joint report by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the UN Human Rights Office.

Armed groups across the country have targeted human rights defenders seeking to shed light on and address human rights violations and abuses.

Most recently, prominent civil society activist Entissar al-Hassaeri was shot dead last month in Tripoli. Her body and that of her aunt were found in the trunk of her car on 23 February.

Two members of the National Commission for Human Rights-Libya, a human rights NGO, were abducted on 13 and 14 February in central Tripoli. Both have since been released, but other human rights defenders and members of civil society remain missing or have gone into hiding.

“Given the increasing risks, the killings of prominent human rights defenders and repeated threats, many have fled the country, fallen silent, or have been forced to work in secret at great risk to themselves and their loved ones,” the report notes.

“Those who managed to flee abroad face a plethora of problems linked to their residency status, expiration of passports with no possibility of extension at some local Libyan consulates, loss of income, and other financial difficulties. Some human rights defenders who have fled have explained that they continued to receive death threats on their mobile phones and social media pages. In at least two cases… human rights defenders were physically assaulted in Tunisia, apparently by Libyans.”

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