Paris – UN experts have warned that the conflict in Libya will likely escalate if the use of foreign actors and mercenaries to support the offensive continues. The UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries has documented extensive reports on their uses, particularly since the start of the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) offensive which has been trying to seize the capital of Tripoli for over a year.
The UN Working Group has also noted that the Government of National Accord (GNA) has too been relying on third-country nationals to aid their military operations. Private military personnel from Russia and mercenaries from Syria, Chad and Sudan have been deployed to add to the clashes and wide scale destruction and killings of civilians.
Chris Kwaja, the chairman of the Working Group said in statement, “This is a breach of the existing arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council which includes a prohibition on the provision of armed mercenary personnel, as well as a breach of the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries to which Libya is party.”
The Francophone Association for Human Rights (AFDH) is concerned about growing reports of Russia and Turkey’s involvement on opposite sides of the Libyan conflict and how their efforts may aggravate the conflict even more. Turkey has been trying to escalate its force through the recruitment of Syrian mercenaries to help sustain clashes and Russia has repeatedly been accused of using Russian private military personnel on the Tripoli frontline as snipers and to direct artillery fire in support for the LNA.
Since the toppling and death of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011, Libya has been split between rival administrations in both the east and west of the country, each also being supported by armed groups. Khalifa Haftar’s assault is backed by France, Russia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Jordan and various other Arab countries. The UN backed government in Tripoli is being supported by Italy and Qatar as well as Turkey, who used troops and mercenaries to help defend the capital in January.
Scores of Syrian men, including boys under 18 years-old have reportedly been sent to Libya in recent months with many fighting on both sides which is complicating an already complex state of war. There are many concerns that these Syrian children have come from exposed social and economic situations and are being used as mercenaries.
“Parties to the conflict in Libya and the States supporting them should immediately stop recruiting, funding and deploying mercenaries and related actors to sustain hostilities,” the Working Group said. “The deployment of mercenaries to Libya only adds to the multitude and opacity of armed groups and other actors operating in a context of impunity.”
As the proxy war in Libya continues to unfold as a global conflict of interest, the competition over oil and gas resources, foreign policies and state possession is costing the lives of several thousand civilians who did not sign up to be a part of this narrative. Since 2019, around 200,000 people have been displaced since the resurgence of the conflict. Heavy shelling and fighting has destroyed people’s homes, damaged infrastructure and conflict-related incidents have damaged hospitals and medical facilities including the killing of medical workers.
The Working Group experts have called for, “Governments concerned to investigate all allegations of human rights violations and abuses committed or facilitated by such actors, to hold perpetrators accountable, and to provide access to effective remedies for victims.”
Furthermore, “The use of these fighters is all the more concerning in the current COVID-19 pandemic. Sending them to a conflict zone shows complete disregard for the health and safety of the Libyan civilian population that has been left severely ill-prepared to face the health crisis.”
AFDH sees that thousands of foreign mercenaries are not only adding fuel to the fire of the conflict in Libya, but are also making a peaceful resolution to the civil war entirely unattainable. The intervention of these foreign states and actors including private military companies and mercenaries is enabling the war to escalate and is affecting the lives of innocent Libyan people.