UN Concerned over Libya’s GNA Failure to Release Women, Children from Prisons During Pandemic


On Sunday, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Rupert Colville, expressed his concern over the Libyan Government of National Accord’s (GNA) failure to include the release of women and children from prisons in its recent measures to reduce the number of detainees in prisons and detention facilities. The measure is meant to curb the coronavirus outbreak amongst prisoners.

In a statement, Colville said that the OHCHR had previously welcomed the GNA’s decision to release more than 1,600 prisoners in Libya but added that his organisation was seriously concerned about the small number of women and children released following the GNA’s latest measure.

He noted that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights does not know the exact number of jailed women, pointing out that some reports say there are as much as 500 Libyan women in prison.

On the other hand, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) expressed grave concerns over the fate of hundreds of migrants returned to Libya by the coast guards this year, most of whom are now unaccounted for.

According to recent government figures, roughly 1,500 people are currently detained in 11 state-run Directorate for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM) centres.

In 2020 alone, at least 3,200 men, women and children aboard boats bound for Europe have been rescued or intercepted by the Libyan coast guards and returned to the war-torn country.

Most of them end up in data collection and investigation facilities or unofficial detention centres.

Despite multiple requests from the IOM, Libyan authorities have not provided clear accounting as to the whereabouts of these people, or why they were taken to unofficial detention facilities.