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Libya: Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure may amount to war crimes, Bachelet warns

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GENEVA (9 April 2019) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday reminded all parties to the conflict in Libya of their obligations under international law to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, urging them to take measures to ensure civilians do not – once again – bear the brunt of the fighting.

"The people of Libya have long been caught between numerous warring parties, with some of the most vulnerable suffering some of the gravest violations of their human rights," High Commissioner Bachelet said.

"The attack near the Mitiga Airport yesterday that left many civilians in Tripoli stranded brought into stark focus the imperative for all parties to respect international humanitarian law, and to take all possible measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and prisons."

Bachelet stressed that the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution must at all times be fully respected. Intentionally targeting civilians or civilian objects as well as indiscriminate attacks may amount to war crimes, she warned.

The High Commissioner highlighted in particular the need to ensure protection of extremely vulnerable civilians, including refugees and migrants, many of whom are already held in horrific conditions in ad hoc detention facilities by armed groups, and may be placed under significant peril.

She also called for authorities to ensure that prisons and detention centres are not abandoned, and for all parties to guarantee that the treatment of detainees is in line with international law.

"I appeal to all sides to come together to avoid further senseless violence and bloodshed," Bachelet said.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org or Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org.

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