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Press releases Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Grave concerns for trapped civilians in Libya – Bachelet

30 April 2019

GENEVA (30 April 2019) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday expressed grave concern that thousands of civilians remain stranded in conflict-affected areas in Tripoli. Bachelet stressed the urgent need for the creation of safe humanitarian corridors for trapped civilians to leave, and joined calls for an immediate ceasefire and the resumption of political talks.

According to UN figures, the escalation of violence in and around Tripoli has caused the displacement of 42,000 people since early April. Thousands are believed to be trapped in Tripoli’s southern outskirts, including Aziziya, Swani and Ain Zara. Increasing air raids and heavy shelling in residential neighbourhoods could result in further civilian casualties, destruction of civilian infrastructure and continued displacement, the High Commissioner warned, calling on all parties to fully respect international human rights and humanitarian law.

“The escalation of attacks in residential areas, including the use of artillery, rockets and airstrikes is deeply worrying. Thousands of children, women and men’s lives are at risk,” Bachelet said, noting that while 22 civilian deaths and 74 injured civilians have been documented, the actual number is likely to be higher.

“I remind all parties to the conflict that the use of explosive weapons with indiscriminate effects, in densely populated areas is a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.”

Bachelet also expressed serious concerns about the safety of around 3,350 migrants and refugees, still held in detention centres near the conflict areas. At least 12 migrants were injured by fighters on 23 April near Qasr ben Gasheer, before being moved to another detention centre. There are reports of severe food and water shortages, as well as of some guards temporarily abandoning their posts. Migrants are being denied access to shelters for internally displaced people (IDPs), and are reportedly being forced to work for militias controlling their detention centres. 

“Migrants should be released from detention centres as a matter of urgency, and should have access to the same humanitarian protection as all civilians, including access to collective shelters or other safe places,” Bachelet said.

The High Commissioner stressed that Libya is not a safe port of return. She called on the European Union and its member States to swiftly and collectively implement a coherent, human rights-based response to maritime migration from Libya. In particular, there is a need to ensure adequate search and rescue capacity in the Mediterranean and to prioritise the primary obligation to save lives at sea, while upholding the principle of non-refoulement under international human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law.


For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / [email protected]or Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] or Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]

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