Libya: UN experts urge Libyan National Army to halt forced evictions and demolitions in Benghazi
04 September 2023
GENEVA (4 September 2023) – The Libyan National Army must immediately cease the forcible eviction of residents and demolition of homes in the Benghazi centre and end reprisals and violence against those protesting the evictions, UN experts* said today.
“Since March this year, more than 20,000 residents of Benghazi have been evicted at very short notice by members of the Tarek Ben Ziyad Brigade and Brigade 20/20, and have been forced to give away their property or their ownership documents,” the experts said.
According to reports received by the experts, there were no prior consultations with concerned residents and no publicly communicated decision-making process.
“The intentional demolitions, including of historic neighbourhoods, protected heritage sites and many residential units, have already caused irreparable harm to the urban architecture and living heritage of the city and have irrevocably affected the residents’ way of life,” the experts said.
“We are alarmed by the suffering caused to those being forcibly evicted, some of whom had only recently returned and refurbished their homes, after they were internally displaced, and their homes were damaged in 2014. This is particularly harsh,” the experts said.
According to reports, there is no compensation scheme in place and authorities have not offered evicted residents any assistance to secure new housing of equal value. Instead, residents who opposed or protested the eviction plans were pressured into compliance or silence, including through power cuts, harassment and violence.
“We remain deeply concerned about reports that demonstrations are being prevented and dispersed, and the arbitrary arrest and detention of some human rights defenders and residents who voiced their opposition of the eviction plans,” the experts said. “This has created a generalised sense of fear that has spread among the population, and a chilling effect on individuals, including residents, journalists, media workers and human rights defenders, who wish to express themselves, demonstrate peacefully, and participate in public life in Libya,” they said.
“The destruction is spreading in an alarming manner, and has already deprived local residents, all Libyans, as well as humanity of important archaeological, colonial and religious sites and buildings that bear testimony to the long and continued history of human presence in this city,” the experts said.
They warned against the complete lack of transparency and accountability of the ongoing demolitions. “Those conducting the demolitions have not been identified and the affected areas remain closed to the public. There are allegations about the involvement of different domestic or foreign companies, but authorities have a duty to clarify the situation and prevent further abusive destruction and human rights violations,” the experts said.
The UN experts emphasised that evictions carried out by military or other armed forces are per se of doubtful legality and if they are followed by destruction of civilian housing and infrastructure, such evictions incur criminal and other legal responsibilities.
To date, there have been no investigations conducted by the judicial authorities, despite dozens of complaints filed before the Public Prosecutor since March 2023.
The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.