From 1 November to 30 November 2017, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documented 16 civilian casualties - six deaths and 10 injuries – during the conduct of hostilities across Libya, a drop from previous months. Victims included five men killed and five injured, one women injured, and one boy killed and four children injured (three boys and one girl).
The majority of civilian casualties were caused by gunfire (two deaths and eight injuries), followed by explosive remnants of war (ERW) or other unknown explosives (four deaths and one injury) and shelling (one injury).
UNSMIL documented civilian casualties in Benghazi (five deaths and five injuries), al-Khoms (four injuries), Sirte (one death) and Warshafana (one injury), as detailed below.
Civilian Casualty Incidents
Between 1 and 7 November, during armed clashes in Warshafana between Zintan forces under the command of Ossama al-Jweili and Warshafana-based armed groups, a civilian man sustained shrapnel injuries during shelling of the al-Aziziya area.
In the context of armed clashes between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and forces loyal to Faraj Qa’im, the Deputy Minister of Interior in the Government of National Accord (GNA) on 10 and 11 November, there were a number of civilian casualties. On 10 November, children came under fire while leaving school in the area of Salmani, leading to the death of a 7-year-old boy and the injury of an 11-year-old girl. In another incident in Salmani on 10 November, two men sustained gunshot wounds in crossfire. On 11 November, a shepherd sustained an injury from crossfire on a farm in Birsis near Benghazi.
On 25 November, a 52-year-old fisherman in Sirte was killed while trying to dismantle an unknown explosive.
On 25 November, armed clashes in al-Khoms between armed groups affiliated to the al-Khoms Military Council and the Common Security Room of Misrata resulted in four civilian injuries (one woman and three children).
On 27 November, a man was killed in crossfire during clashes between unidentified armed groups in the area of Qaryounis in Benghazi.
Between 6 and 23 November, three men were killed inside their Benghazi homes, when unknown explosives detonated. On 28 November, another man was injured by an ERW on Misrata Street in Benghazi.
On 7 November, Zintan-based armed groups under the command of Ossama al-Jweili reportedly stole equipment and medicine from a clinic in al-Aziziya, which was used as a field hospital during fighting in Warshafana.
On 13 November, armed men reportedly affiliated to the LNA raided the offices of the Libyan Roh Al-Watan TV station in Benghazi. They took furniture, equipment, and documents, and ordered the closure of the station.
On 17 November, the al-Jalaa hospital in Benghazi sustained material damage after unidentified armed men opened fire against the hospital building, prompting LNA-affiliated armed guards to return fire. The motive behind the shooting, which lasted some three hours, remains unclear.
On 30 November, an unidentified armed group attacked a building adjacent to the Central Misrata Hospital, leading to minor material damage to the windows and front door of the emergency ward.
The Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council and allies are believed to have been responsible for leaving mines and ERW in areas of Benghazi they controlled prior to their retreat. UNSMIL was unable to determine with certainty which parties to the conflict had caused the other civilian casualties in October.
During November, Benghazi witnessed a number of casualties from gunfire in unclear circumstances, where there were no armed clashes in the vicinity. On 1 November 2017, a 15 year-old Syrian boy sustained a gunshot wound to the leg in the al-Kuweifiya area. On 5 November 2017, an Egyptian national was injured by a stray bullet in the al-Majori neighborhood.
On 6 November, the body of a commander with the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council was brought to a Misrata hospital. On 31 August 2017, he was seized by the Department of Combatting Organized Crime-Central Branch in Misrata, nominally under the oversight of the Ministry of Interior. He was reportedly transferred to al-Jawiya prison shortly before his death. An initial autopsy report dated 7 November concluded that he died due to a “breathing failure”. After its result was challenged by relatives, the prosecution ordered a second autopsy. Conclusions have yet to be shared with the victim’s family or lawyer.
On 16 November, a university student sustained two gunshot wounds to his stomach during an armed brawl in Sabha University. On the same day, a woman sustained fatal injuries while riding in a taxi in Sabha. The vehicle came under fire from unknown perpetrators.
On 16 November, a member of the al-Khoms Military Council and his relatives reportedly shot dead seven men from another al-Khoms family in apparent revenge for the killing of their relative. The seven were reportedly gunned down inside their homes or farms or on the street.
On 19 November, the Tajoura and Janzour branches of the Department of Combatting Illegal Migration raided a makeshift camp for migrants in al-Maya with the declared aim of arresting smugglers and other criminal elements. The use of firearms reportedly led to one death and four injuries among male migrants.
On 20 November, at least two migrants died and another 13 were injured in a road accident near Sirte, when the driver lost control of the vehicle transporting the migrants, allegedly following a chase by the Misrata-based 166 Brigade.
On 20 November, the body of a 9-year-old child was found in al-Zeit street in Benghazi. He was blindfolded, his mouth was tied, and he appeared to have died from asphyxia. He was abducted four days earlier by unknown perpetrators, who demanded a ransom from the victim’s family.
The figures for civilian casualties set out above only include persons killed or injured in the course of hostilities and who were not directly participating in the hostilities. The figures do not include those casualties that are not a direct result of hostilities, for example executions after capture, torture or abductions, or casualties caused as an indirect consequence of hostilities. The figures are based on information UNSMIL has gathered and cross-checked from a broad range of sources in Libya, including human rights defenders, civil society, current and former officials, employees of local governments, community leaders and members, witnesses, others directly affected and media reports. In order to assess the credibility of information obtained, where possible, UNSMIL reviewed documentary information, including medical records, forensic reports and photographic evidence.
The figures are only those that UNSMIL was able to document in the reporting period. They are not likely to be complete and may change as new information emerges about incidents involving civilian casualties that took place during this period.
Similarly, while UNSMIL has systematically tried to ensure that the cases it documented are based on credible information, further verification would be required to attain a higher standard of proof. Due to the security situation, UNSMIL has not been able to carry out direct site visits to all relevant locations in Libya to obtain information. Fear of reprisals against sources further hamper information gathering.
While not all actions leading to civilian casualties breach international humanitarian law, UNSMIL reminds all parties to the conflict that they are under an obligation to target only military objectives. Direct attacks on civilians as well as indiscriminate attacks – which do not distinguish between civilians and fighters – are prohibited. Attacks that are expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects excessive to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage are also prohibited. Such attacks amount to war crimes that can be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.
In order to ensure greater protection of the civilian population and essential infrastructure, all parties engaged in fighting in Libya must cease the use of mortars and other indirect weapons and imprecise aerial bombardments in civilian-populated areas, and not place fighters or other military objectives in populated areas. All executions of captives must cease and all those captured including fighters must be treated humanely in all circumstances. Murdering or torturing captives is also a war crime, regardless of what the captive may be accused of.