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UN, AU condemn 'slave trade' in Libya
December 6, 2017, 5:36 pm

Shocking images of young African men being sold in Libya as potential farm laborers to North African buyers has led to horror and indignation across the continent. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), African Union Commission (AUC), African leaders and other humanitarian organizations have called on the Libyan authorities to investigate and punish the perpetrators, while ensuring safety of the victims.

President of Guinea and current Chairperson of the AUC, Professor Alpha Conde, strongly condemned the despicable acts which he said were at odds with the ideals of the Founding Fathers of the Organization and relevant African and international instruments, including the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

He called for an immediate end to these practices and other criminal acts of human trafficking and urged the Libyan authorities to take swift action and identify all perpetrators and accomplices, with the view of bringing the criminals to justice. “These modern slavery practices must end and the African Union will use all the tools at its disposal,” Mr. Conde added.

In search of a better life in Europe and desperate to escape poverty at home, thousands of young Africans have risked a dangerous and often deadly journey across the Sahara Desert. African migrants from nations including Guinea, Senegal, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Gambia make the dangerous crossing through the Sahara to Libya with hopes of making it over the Mediterranean Sea to Italy and on to other countries in Europe. But many of these migrants end up stranded in Libya, Egypt and other North African countries, often incarcerated by the authorities or victimized by human traffickers.

Libya has promised to open an investigation into the alleged ‘slave trade’, and promised to bring the perpetrators to justice, while also pledging to return those taken as slaves back to their countries of origin. However, the fear is that the prevailing unstable political situation in Libya will make it difficult for the country to undertake any meaningful investigation or implement necessary actions.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously backed a resolution on 21 November urging stronger action against human trafficking and modern-day slavery world-wide. The 15-member UNSC called on all member states to reinforce their political commitment and improve their implementation of applicable legal obligations to criminalize, prevent, and otherwise combat trafficking in persons.

This followed a briefing to the UNSC by top UN officials, including the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who underscored the international community’s collective responsibility to stop criminals and terrorists from preying on vulnerable populations and migrants, in the wake of reports showing African migrants being sold as slaves in Libya.

Noting, in particular, the horrific images of African migrants being sold as “goods” in Libya, the UN Chief stressed the need to help Libyan authorities strengthen their own capacity to protect and provide for vulnerable men, women and children.

“Terrorist groups such as Daesh, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab and the Lord’s Resistance Army are forcing women, boys and girls into de-humanizing servitude. Committed in the shadows, these actions are serious abuses of human rights and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.” he said.

Guterres also highlighted the urgent need to create more opportunities for regular migration, to restore the integrity of the refugee protection regime, and to increase the number of refugees resettled in developed countries.


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