Human Rights Report on Civilian Casualties - May 2016
Tunis, 1 June 2016 – From 1 May to 31 May 2016, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documented 70 civilian casualties, including 24 deaths and 46 injuries, during the conduct of hostilities across Libya. Victims included 7 children killed and 5 injured, 12 men killed and 10 injured, 4 women killed and 3 injured, and 1 adult killed and 28 injured where the sex was not identified.
The majority of civilian deaths and injuries were caused by shelling, including mortars, artillery and other indirect weapons (11 deaths, 37 injured) while the next leading cause of death was explosive remnants of war (9 deaths, 3 injured) and then gun shots (4 deaths) and aerial bombardments (6 injured).
UNSMIL documented 14 deaths and 37 injured in Benghazi, 6 deaths and 3 injured in Wadi Zamzam, 4 deaths in Tripoli and 6 injured in Tripoli.
Due to limited access and the multiple parties engaged in the conflict, who did not take responsibility for particular incidents, UNSMIL was unable to determine with certainty which party caused these civilian casualties.
UNSMIL also documented an attack on a civilian facility. On 27 May, two shells hit the Benghazi Medical Centre, including the Intensive Care Unit. There were no casualties.
Aside from civilian casualties during the conduct of hostilities, UNSMIL documented the death of a 9 year-old boy. His body was found in Warshafana 10 days after being abducted. In another case, UNSMIL documented the death of a man in Tripoli, whose body was found covered in bruises, with gunshot wounds to the chest, and handcuffed.
Also, on 5 May, it was reported that 12 infants had died from preventable bacterial infection in the Sabha Medical Centre neonatal intensive care unit, while one child died and three others were admitted to the intensive care unit in the Tripoli Medical Centre following administration of medication. Such deaths are an indicator of the breakdown of the medical system in Libya, linked to on-going hostilities in the country. It is estimated that nearly 60% of public hospitals in conflict areas in Libya have shut down or are inaccessible.
The figures for civilian casualties set out above only include persons killed or injured in the course of hostilities and who were not directly participating in the hostilities. The figures do not include those casualties that are not a direct result of hostilities, for example executions after capture, torture or abductions, or casualties caused as an indirect consequence of hostilities. The figures are based on information UNSMIL has gathered and cross-checked from a broad range of sources in Libya, including human rights defenders, civil society, current and former officials, employees of local governments, community leaders and members, witnesses, others directly affected and media reports. In order to assess the credibility of information obtained, where possible, UNSMIL reviewed documentary information, including medical records, forensic reports and photographic evidence.
The figures are only those that UNSMIL was able to document in the reporting period. They are not likely to be complete and may change as new information emerges about incidents involving civilian casualties that took place during this period.
Similarly, while UNSMIL has systematically tried to ensure that the cases it documented are based on credible information, further verification would be required to attain a higher standard of proof. Due to the security situation, UNSMIL has not been able to carry out direct site visits in Libya to obtain information. Disruption in communications especially in areas controlled by groups pledging allegiance to ISIL and fear of reprisals against sources further hamper information gathering.
While not all actions leading to civilian casualties breach international humanitarian law, UNSMIL reminds all parties to the conflict that they are under an obligation to target only military objectives. Direct attacks on civilians as well as indiscriminate attacks – which do not distinguish between civilians and fighters – are prohibited. Attacks that are expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects excessive to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage are also prohibited. Such attacks amount to war crimes that can be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.
In order to ensure greater protection of the civilian population and essential infrastructure, all parties engaged in fighting in Libya must cease the use of mortars and other indirect weapons and imprecise aerial bombardments in civilian-populated areas, and not place fighters or other military objectives in populated areas. All executions of captives must cease and all those captured including fighters must be treated humanely in all circumstances. Murdering or torturing captives is also a war crime, regardless of what the captive may be accused of.