LWPP Welcomes UN Communication Raising Concerns Over Forced Evictions and Demolitions in Benghazi

21 August 2023 - The Libyan Women's Peace Platform (LWPP) welcomes the joint communication issued by seven UN Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups on 21 June 2023, which raises serious concerns over alleged forced evictions, demolitions and human rights violations occurring in Benghazi.

On June 21, seven UN Special Rapporteurs addressed an urgent communication to the Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA) raising alarms over reports received since March. Specifically, the experts cited allegations that over 20,000 residents have been forcibly evicted from historic neighborhoods with little notice and inadequate compensation. Entire neighborhoods, including protected heritage sites, were allegedly demolished without prior consultation, transparency or accountability. 

The seven UN Special Rapporteurs said they were writing to the Commander of the LNA as the person “de facto in control of the eastern region of Libya, and superior of, among others, of the Tarek Ben Ziyad Brigade and Brigade 20/20, reportedly involved in the situation.”

They noted that a letter expressing similar concerns was transmitted to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and to the Government of National Unity.

Their letter highlights potential violations of cultural rights, housing rights, freedom of expression and assembly, as well as arbitrary detention of peaceful protestors.

The rapporteurs specifically recommended that Libyan authorities immediately halt forced evictions and demolitions until alleged human rights violations can be investigated. The letter further referenced demolition of important cultural heritage, including parts of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Cyrene archaeological park. They also called for accountability, redress for victims, and full cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms.

The communication specifically requested responses, within a 60-day deadline, to eight areas of concern, including requests for further information on the legal basis and justification for the demolitions and evictions, steps taken to consult residents and explore alternatives, investigations into destroyed cultural sites, measures to assist displaced residents exercise their right to housing, and details on entities involved in the acts. 

The rapporteurs cited the concerns raised earlier this year by residents, human rights defenders, and civil society, including local leaders, over the demolition and forced evictions through petitions, highlighting how they contravene Libya's obligations under national and international law, including the protection of cultural rights and heritage, and the rights to housing, land, and property.

On 19 April, LWPP released a statement condemning the escalating violations of human rights in Libya, including the arbitrary detention and defamation of human rights defenders. The statement stressed forced evictions without due process amount to a crime against humanity with devastating impacts on those affected. LWPP expressed its stand in solidarity with victims and stressed that human rights must be central during the reconstruction phase.

With the deadline now passed without the rapporteurs receiving a response from the three parties, the Commander of the Libyan National Army, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Government of National Unity, the UN today revealed the contents of the letter and published a copy of it on the website of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

LWPP is disappointed Libyan authorities have not engaged with the UN's mandate to examine credible human rights allegations. We reiterate the importance of cooperation with international oversight to build trust and accountability. We reiterate the importance of cooperation with international oversight to build trust and accountability.

LWPP echoes the UN experts in condemning violence, intimidation and other rights violations associated with the ongoing demolitions in Benghazi. We call on authorities to respect international law and protect the rights of all Libyan citizens.

LWPP calls for immediate action to address the situation, including respecting freedoms of opinion, expression and assembly; providing urgent remedies and alternative housing for those forcibly evicted; protecting cultural heritage sites; and establishing independent oversight of reconstruction efforts. Transparency and accountability are essential.

We urge the international community to hold Libyan authorities accountable and work to ensure the rights of all citizens are protected. LWPP will continue advocating for peace, justice and women's rights throughout Libya.