North Africa Theater

Morocco: Melilla massacre survivors get prison

A court in Nador, Morocco, on July 20 sentenced 33 migrants, mostly from Sudan and South Sudan, to 11 months behind bars for "illegal entry" into the country and "disobedience." The 33 are among the hundreds who on June 24 attempted to enter Spain's North African enclave of Melilla, sparking a violent response from authorities. Some 2,000 migrants stormed the heavily fortified border between the Moroccan region of Nador and the Spanish enclave, with many trying to scale the border wall. They were repelled by Moroccan and Spanish security forces, with up to 27 killed. The African Union is calling for an investigation into the repression. (InfoMigrants, RFI, AP, TNH)

UN releases evidence of mass graves in Libya

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) on July 4 released a report containing evidence of mass graves in the Libyan city of Tarhuna, southeast of Tripoli. The report estimates there could be as many as 100 undiscovered mass graves in the city. It claims that the al-Kaniyat militia, in power in Tarhuna from 2016 to 2020, is responsible for mass killings there. The militia is alleged to have used brutal torture methods on residents including women, children, the infirm, and the disabled.

Russian mercenaries accused in Libya atrocities

A report to the Security Council by a panel of UN human rights experts finds that foreign fighters and private military companies are responsible for grave abuses in Libya—especially naming Russia's Wagner Group. The report was classified "confidential," but a copy was leaked to the Associated Press. It finds that both Turkish-backed militias loyal to the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Wagner Group, apparently contracted by eastern warlord Khalifa Haftar, have employed mercenaries who were veterans of the internal war in Syria. The GNA-aligned militias are implicated in abuses of migrants, who have been "regularly subjected to acts of slavery, rape and torture." The Wager Group is accused of planting unmarked anti-personnel mines on the southern periphery of Tripoli, when the city was besieged by Haftar's forces from April 2019 to an October 2020 ceasefire.

Libya: militia accused of grave abuses against migrants

A May 4 report from Amnesty International finds that a militia funded and backed by Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Unity is responsible for a litany of crimes, including unlawful killings, torture, rape, forced labor, and the interception and return of migrants and refugees to the country's notoriously harsh detention centers. Created by government decree in January 2021, the Stability Support Authority (SSA) is commanded by one of the most powerful militia leaders in Tripoli, Abdel Ghani al-Kikli AKA "Gheniwa," who was appointed despite a well-documented history of crimes and serious human rights violations committed by forces under his command.

ICC reveals Libya investigation strategy

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim AA Khan on April 28 revealed a new strategy for the ongoing investigation into the situation in Libya to the UN Security Council. The ICC investigation focuses on accusations of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Libya since the outbreak of the revolution against Moammar Qaddafi's government in February 2011. The investigation also covers three unexecuted arrest warrants issued by the ICC. The ICC began its investigation in March 2011. Libya is not a party to the Rome Statute. Therefore, the ICC derives its jurisdiction for this investigation from a unanimous reference by the Security Council in Resolution 1970.

Libya's two prime ministers

On Feb. 10, Libya's eastern-based parliament chose a new prime minister for the country, former interior minister Fathi Bashagha. The only problem… Libya already has an interim prime minister: Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, who was chosen by a UN-led process to head the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord. Dbeibah was supposed to guide the fractured country through presidential elections in late December, but they were postponed after confusion and contestation over the rules governing the process. Among the issues: Dbeibah, who had promised not to run for president but put his hat in the ring anyway, would apparently have to step away from his duties three months before the polls—which he did not do. The Tobruk-based parliament says the December deadline means Dbeibah's time is up, but he says he won't hand over power until elections take place. He also reportedly survived an assassination attempt shortly before the parliament's move to replace him, but details on what really happened remain thin. None of this appears to bode well for Libyans' long quest for a united country.

Tunisia: president dissolves Supreme Judicial Council

Tunisian President Kais Saied officially dissolved the Supreme Judicial Council on Feb. 6, sending police to seal the chamber where the body meets. The Council's head, Youssef Bouzakher, called the dissolution "illegal," and said it is aimed at bringing Tunisia's jurists under control of the executive. Established in 2016, the Council is a constitutional body entrusted with ensuring the independence of the judiciary, responsible for appointing judges and taking disciplinary action. Bouzakher said the Council intends to continue working in defiance of the president's announcement.

Migrant protest camp broken up in Libya

More than 600 asylum-seekers and migrants were detained on Jan. 10 when Libyan security forces cleared a protest encampment in front of an aid center run by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, in the capital city of Tripoli. The protesters—who were asking for protection, and evacuation from Libya—had been camped out since last October, when Libyan security forces violently rounded up more than 5,000 asylum-seekers and migrants, forcing them into notoriously grim detention centers. Before the raid on the protest camp, UNHCR permanently closed the center in Tripoli, leaving thousands without humanitarian assistance. The Norwegian Refugee Council said the most recent arrests were the "culmination of a disastrous situation," and Médecins Sans Frontières called on the EU to "stop supporting...an unending system of detention, abuse, and violence in Libya." The EU backs the Libyan Coast Guard, which intercepted more than 32,000 asylum-seekers and migrants at sea last year, returning them to detention centers. 

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