Human Rights Report on Civilian Casualties - October 2018

2 Nov 2018

Human Rights Report on Civilian Casualties - October 2018

Tunis, 1 November 2018 – From 1 October to 31 October 2018, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documented 10 civilian casualties – eight deaths and two injuries – during the conduct of hostilities across Libya. All victims were men. 

The civilian casualties were caused by gunfire (four killed and one injured) and explosive remnants of war (ERW, four killed and one injured).

UNSMIL documented civilian casualties in Benghazi (four killed and one injured), al-Fuqha (four killed), and al-Zawiya (one injured).

UNSMIL documented eight additional casualties from other possible violations of international humanitarian law and violations or abuses of international human rights law in Derna, al-Zawiya and Awbari.

Civilian Casualty Incidents


On 28 October, Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL) fighters carried out an attack on al-Fuqha, apparently in revenge for the arrest of an ISIL fighter on 15 October in the town and its residents’ alleged cooperation with the Libyan National Army (LNA). ISIL fighters shot dead two men inside their homes. They dragged two other men outside, killing them execution-style in front of onlookers. [1]


ERWs continued to pose a danger to civilians in Benghazi, particularly in areas that had witnessed protracted fighting between the LNA and the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC).

On 4 October, a man was killed when an ERW detonated at his home in central Benghazi.,. On 7 October, a 55-year-old shepherd was killed in an ERW explosion at an abandoned school in the al-Zariri’ia area. On 27 October, two men were killed and another was injured when an ERW detonated in the Gwarsha neighborhood. According to information gathered by UNSMIL, the three men were employees of an electricity company and were in the area conducting maintenance work.


On 6 October, a man was injured near the al-Zawiya Teaching Hospital in crossfire between members of two local armed groups. 


Civilian Facilities

During their attack on al-Fuqha on 28 October, ISIL fighters tampered with the communication network, damaged the local police station and set a number of homes on fire.

On 29 October, a number of al-Zawiya residents set fire to the front entrance of the al-Zawiya Court Complex, apparently in protest against the release from detention of a local Qadhafi-regime figure. 



ISIL claimed responsibility for the attack on al-Fuqha on 28 October in a statement issued on the “Amaq news agency”.

The BRSC and allies are believed to have been responsible for leaving mines and ERWs in areas of Benghazi they controlled prior to their retreat.

UNSMIL was unable to determine with certainty which parties to the conflict had caused the other civilian casualties in October.


Casualties from other violations of international humanitarian law and violations or abuses of human rights

On 12 October, in Derna,  a 12-year-old boy sustained a gunshot wound to the head, which reportedly left him paralyzed. He was in the street in the neighborhood of Sahel al-Sharki when injured. There were no clashes in the vicinity at the time of the incident. 

On 12 October, two men were killed and at least three others injured in Awbari after relatives of a Tebu man who had reportedly been killed accidently by a Tuareg man sought revenge and opened fire in the city centre.

On 25 October, a gunman shot dead a 28-year-old man inside the emergency ward of the al-Zawiya Teaching Hospital, while he was being treated for another injury. A medical professional sustained a minor injury from ricocheting shrapnel.


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 to all relevant locations in Libya to obtain information. 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.

Cases highlighted in the “Casualties from other violations of international humanitarian law and violations or abuses of human rights” section include casualties caused during incidents that would constitute a violation of international humanitarian or human rights law, but are not a direct result of hostilities, for examples executions upon capture of civilians and others hors de combat (such as captured fighters) and torture causing death. The section also includes casualties caused by the proliferation of weapons and impunity enjoyed by armed groups and criminal networks – considered as indirect consequences of hostilities. Cases highlighted in the “casualties from other violations” section are not included in the figures for civilian casualties and include only those that UNSMIL documented during the month.

Contact UNSMIL’s Human Rights Monitoring Team to report information on civilian casualties in Libya at the following email address:

[1] ISIL fighters also abducted at least nine other residents of the town.