Rampant abductions by armed groups have become a part of daily life in Libya, said Amnesty International as it launched a campaign digest, ‘Vanished off the face of the earth’: Abducted civilians in Libya, calling for an end to an epidemic of kidnapping blighting the country.
More than 600 people have gone missing between February 2014 and April 2015 according to the Libyan Red Crescent Society (LRCS), and the fate and whereabouts of at least 378 remain unknown, though the real numbers are likely to be much higher.
“Civilians in Libya are living on a knife edge. Widespread lawlessness and chaos have been exacerbated by routine abductions, as armed groups tighten their stranglehold on the country,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“Hundreds of civilians have been abducted on a whim simply because of where they are from, or because they are believed to support a rival political group. In many cases, they are kept hostage to pressure an armed group into a prisoner exchange or to coerce the family to pay a ransom.
The collapse of central authority and the absence of law enforcement and a functioning justice system in Libya has created an atmosphere of pervasive impunity which has allowed perpetrators of such abductions to evade prosecution and accountability.”
Hostage-taking of civilians is prohibited under international humanitarian law and during a conflict amounts to a war crime.
Amnesty International is calling on the international community to increase its support to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya. So far the ICC Prosecutor has failed to undertake any investigations into crimes under international law committed by armed groups since 2011.
Those abducted by armed groups are routinely tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention. Many are beaten, threatened with death, held blindfolded for several days, verbally and physically assaulted and often tortured with electric shocks or forced into stress positions. Several have died after being tortured or were summarily killed - their bodies later dumped on the side of the road.