Armed Groups in Libya Torturing Migrants, Selling Slaves, U.N. Says

Seven years after the U.S. and NATO-led effort to remove Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, armed groups are committing human rights abuses and people are being sold in slave markets, according to United Nations officials.

Andrew Gilmour, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said the situation in Libya has not improved since Gaddafi was toppled and killed in 2011. Armed groups with no connection to the government have proliferated throughout the country and are detaining people arbitrarily and subjecting them to torture and murder.

“Extrajudicial and unlawful killings are rampant,” Gilmour said. “In what has become an increasing pattern in and around Benghazi over the last two years, more bodies with signs of torture and hands bound were found in the streets.”

Gilmour also said there are “absolutely intolerable” reports of captured migrants being bought and sold in open slave markets.

In a series of reports, CNN has been highlighting the plight of migrants in Libya who have been abducted and tortured to extort a payment for their release, and even sold as slaves.

Yet even with these dangers awaiting them, the UN Migration Agency (IOM) estimates there are up to 1 million migrants currently in Libya and vulnerable to extortion, kidnapping, and slavery.

Reports of slave markets have persisted since at least April 2017, when the U.N. published reports of West African migrants being captured and sold in Libya.

Gilmour called on the U.N. member states for a broader engagement on human rights issues in Libya, including working with security forces there.

Libyan authorities denied that the situation was as dire as Gilmour described but acknowledged it had little resources to combat organized crime and terrorism.

Meanwhile, unrelated media reports say France’s former President Nicolas Sarkozy is under formal investigation over allegations that he took millions of euros in illegal financing for his 2007 campaign from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Following two days of questioning over the matter, French authorities on Wednesday placed Sarkozy under formal investigation, a designation that France24 says “indicates that magistrates have found sufficient evidence of wrongdoing.”

On Tuesday, police took the former president into custody for questioning as part of an investigation into corruption that began in 2013. Libyan officials linked to the regime of the late Gadhafi say they helped finance Sarkozy’s 2007 run for president. Sarkozy was defeated for re-election in 2012 by Socialist Party candidate François Hollande.

The investigation is exploring allegations that [Gadhafi’s] regime secretly gave Sarkozy €50 million [$62 million] for his inaugural presidential campaign in 2007. The allegations were first made by one of the late dictator’s sons, Saif al-Islam, in 2011,” report France24.

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