The Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez al-Sarraj, denied international reports that it had forcefully recruited hundreds of migrants to fight in the battle for Tripoli against the Libyan National Army's (LNA) advance.
An official from the agency tasked with combating illegal migration denied the claims.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he acknowledged that authorities were facing “crises” in several detention centers.
“Some agencies have grown accustomed to making accusations against us without first verifying them,” he said on condition of anonymity.
Human Rights Watch had warned on Friday that migrants and asylum seekers held in Libya were subject to torture and deprived of food and medical care.
“Some migrant detention centers are located near militia bases – ripe targets for attack during fighting – and GNA-backed militia members have allegedly forced some detained migrants to handle weapons, according to unconfirmed reports. The GNA needs to ensure that migrants and asylum seekers in its custody are moved out of harm’s way and to release all those who are arbitrarily detained,” said HRW.
“Thousands of migrants and asylum seekers detained in appalling conditions now find themselves trapped near or on the front lines of conflict,” said Judith Sunderland, associate Europe and Central Asia director. “Any militia members who force them to handle weapons would compound their nightmare – and might be guilty of war crimes.”
About 6,000 migrants and asylum seekers are held in Libyan detention centers, according to UN figures, including over 3,000 deemed at risk of getting caught up in fighting over Tripoli.
“While only some detention centers are located in or near the capital, many in western Libya are run by local armed groups aligned with the GNA. Detainees are held indefinitely, without judicial review, and exposed to the serious risk of abuse, including torture, deprivation of food and medical care, forced labor, extortion, and sexual violence,” HRW added.
HRW has gathered information directly and individually from two people who said they were detained at the time in the Tajoura detention center, in an eastern suburb of Tripoli, and a third person who said they were detained in Tarik Al Sikka detention center in the heart of Tripoli.
“The two detainees at Tajoura said that since April 4, armed men had forced them and other detainees at that detention center to work repairing military vehicles at a nearby militia facility, and to load, unload, and clean weapons. One detainee said that the weapons included machine guns, and described being brought by armed men to unload weapons in an area that has seen repeated fighting since April 4, along with other detainees,” continued HRW.
The LNA launched its operation to liberate Tripoli of terrorist groups and criminal militias on April 4.
“At Tarik Al Sikka detention center, in Tripoli, militia members have stored weapons and munitions including shoulder-fired rockets, hand grenades, and bullets in proximity to where detainees are housed, and forced detainees to help move them, one detainee said,” according to HRW.
The agency has heard “credible claims via multiple sources that armed groups in Tripoli have forced detained migrants or asylum seekers to work in similar fashion during past fighting between militias there including in August and September 2018.”
“Parties to the conflict forcing detained migrants to handle weapons, stockpiling weapons where migrants are detained, and conducting military activities in compounds where migrants are detained would likely violate the laws of armed conflict. Using civilians as human shields or taking hostages would constitute war crimes,” it warned.