The legal battle to hold the EU to account for Libya migrant abuses

An article in The New Humanitarian examines some of the ways in which civil rights activists have sought to hold the EU to account for its role in the abuse of migrants 'pulled back' or held in detention in Libya. A number of other cases, not mentioned in the article, are also ongoing.

The legal battle to hold the EU to account for Libya migrant abuses (The New Humanitarian, link):

"This year alone, thousands have disappeared beyond the reach of UN agencies after being disembarked. Migration detention in Libya functions as a business that generates revenue for armed groups, some of whom have also pressed asylum seekers and migrants into military activities – a practice that is likely a war crime, according to Human Rights Watch. 

All of this has been well documented and widely known for years, even as the EU and Italy have stepped up their support for the Libyan Coast Guard. Yet despite their key role in empowering the Coast Guard to return people to Libya, international human rights lawyers have struggled to hold the EU and Italy to account. Boxed in by the limitations of international law, lawyers have had to find increasingly innovative legal strategies to try to establish European complicity in the abuses taking place."

The article cites the submission to the International Criminal Court made in 2019; the case S.S. and others v Italy, pending before the European Court of Human Rights; and the Global Legal Action Network's (GLAN) complaint to the European Court of Auditors on the misuse of EU funds.

There are also other ongoing attempts to have the EU and its member states held accountable: GLAN and other organisations have filed a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee over commercial ships returning people rescued at sea to Libya; the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI, in its Italian initials) and the Cairo Institute of Human Rights have filed a separate complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee over the pull-back of two individuals to Libya; and Statewatch has called on the International Maritime Organization to take steps to deregister the Libyan 'search and rescue' zone.

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