UN report: UNSMIL was hindered in investigation on Tajoura detention centre attack by Libyan authorities

On July 2 2019, two airstrikes occurred in Libya’s capital of Tripoli. One hit the Tajoura Detention Centre. This attack killed 53 people and left 87 people injured. All victims were locked up in the centre at the time of the bombing. United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) shared the detailed findings of investigation into the attack and highlights several problems to be further investigated. The Department of Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM), the Libyan organisation responsible for the Detention Center, is accused of hindering the investigation and of contributing to the amount of victims. Furthermore, it still remains unclear who is accountable for the attack on the detention centre.

Read the full report here.

Lack of cooperation DCIM
According to the UNSMIL, the DCIM made communication with the victims of the bombing  difficult. It is highlighted that “[o]n  19  August  2019, UNSMIL travelled to the  Gathering  and Departure Facility,in Tripoli, where most of the survivors were relocated, to interview them, but was denied entry by  the armed  group  controlling  access to the facility. UNSMIL regrets the obstruction of its work, which occurred despite assurances provided by the GNA Deputy Minister of Interior for Migration, on 6 July 2019, that United Nations entities would be granted access to the site.”

Once in contact with the people in the detention center, not much information was given to the UNSMIL about the victims of the attack. Migratns and refugees in the center told UNSMIL that they were “routinely subjected to torture and other ill-treatment by personnel at the Tajoura detention centre”. The survivors feared they would be tortured by the DCIM personnel if they would provide detailed information about the victims. The DCIM itself could not provide names or death certificates of the persons that died in the attack.

DCIM accused of shootings after bombing
During the attack, migrants and refugees were reportedly restrained from fleeing the scene and were locked inside the detention centre. This hindered their opportunities to escape.

UNSMIL accentuates that a shooting possibly occurred shortly after the attack. This shooting was allegedly carried out by the Head of the detention centre. A witness said that a DCIM employee shot at the people that tried to escape. UNSMIL finds that “[a]ccording to DCIM officials in Tajoura, all the casualties at the detention centre were caused by the airstrikes. Migrants and refugees interviewed by UNSMIL alleged that three fatalities occurred through gunfire.”

UNSMIL argues that “[t]here are grounds to believe that migrants and refugees could have been saved, and their right to life protected, had they not been prevented from exiting following the first airstrike” and further urges the Libyan government to close all Migration Detention Centers.

Foreign aircraft involved in attack
UNSMIL explains that the attackers of the Tajoura Detention Centre still remain unknown. However, the UN delegation has been able to identify and conclude that the attack was carried out by foreign aircraft. It is mentioned in the report that “[w]hile it appears that the airstrikes of 2 July 2019 were conducted by aircraft belonging to a foreign State, it remains unclear whether these air assets were under the command of the LNA [Libyan National Army, under the control of General Haftar] or were operated under the command of that foreign State in support of the LNA”. It is further indicated in the report that a foreign guidance system was employed in the bombing, a system not known to be used by the fighting forces in Libya. This adds to the assumption that the attack was carried out by a foreign state.