The Security Council imposed sanctions on six leaders of criminal networks engaged in human trafficking and migrant smuggling from Libya on Thursday, which the Netherlands said was the first time ever that these human rights violators have been targeted by the U.N.’s most powerful body.
The travel ban and asset freeze were imposed after Russia informed the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Libya that it decided “to lift the hold” it had placed on adding the six men to the sanctions blacklist.
Netherlands Foreign Minister Stef Blok said his country, which led efforts to list the six men, wants to use its Security Council seat “to improve the lives of refugees and migrants in Libya and prevent them from making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.”
The Netherlands Mission said its aim is “to destroy the business model of human trafficking networks and tackle the appalling human rights situation of migrants that were sold as slaves on the markets of Libya.”
There was widespread global outrage after video footage was broadcast on CNN last November showing the auction and sale of migrant men as slaves in Libya. In early December, the Security Council condemned the sale of African migrants into slavery in Libya as “heinous abuses of human rights” that may constitute crimes against humanity.
Libya emerged as a major conduit for African migrants hoping to reach Europe after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed the country’s longtime dicatator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011 and the country slid into chaos, with rival governments and parliaments based in the western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.
Last December, the African Union said between 400,000 and 700,000 migrants were thought to be in more than 40 detention camps across Libya, often under inhumane conditions. The International Organization of Migration recorded more than 3,100 deaths among migrants making the Mediterranean crossing in 2017.
Recalling the images of migrants being sold as slaves which “shocked our conscience” and the Security Council’s vow to take action, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Thursday’s sanctions “send a strong message that the international community is united in seeking accountability for perpetrators of human trafficking and smuggling.”
Haley said blacklisting the six men is “part of a larger international effort to seek accountability for those involved in migrant smuggling and trafficking that threatens the peace, security, or stability of Libya.”
In selecting the six men, she said there was “close collaboration” between the U.S., Netherlands, France, Britain and Germany.
The six smugglers and traffickers added to the sanctions blacklist are:
— Mus’ab Abu-Qarin, described by the sanctions committee as “a central actor in human trafficking and migrant smuggling activities” whose network covers “Libya, European destinations, sub-Saharan countries for the recruitment of migrants and Arab countries for the financial sector.” The committee said a former accomplice now cooperating with Libyan authorities claims Abu-Qarin organized journeys over sea for 45,000 people in 2015 alone — and it said he also organized a journey on April 18, 2015 that ended in a shipwreck and 800 deaths.
— Mohammed Kachlaf, described by the sanctions committee as head of a militia in Zawiya in western Libya that controls a refinery which is “a central hub of migrant smuggling operations.” It says Kachlaf also controls detention centers and called his network “one of the most dominant in the field of migrant smuggling and the exploitation of migrants in Libya.”
— Abd Al Rahman Al-Milad, described by the sanctions committee as head of the regional Coast Guard unit in Zawiya “that is consistently linked with violence against migrants and other human smugglers.” It said U.N. experts monitoring sanctions claim Al-Milad and other Coast Guard members “are directly involved in the sinking of migrant boats using firearms.”
—Ermias Ghermay, who the committee said is identified by multiple sources “as one of the most important sub-Saharan actors involved in the illicit trafficking of migrants in Libya.” It called him “a leader of a transnational network responsible for trafficking and smuggling tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from the Horn of Africa to the coast of Libya and onwards to destination countries in Europe and the United States.” The committee said he has detention camps where serious human rights abuses are reportedly being committed, and an Italian arrest warrant against him for smuggling thousands of migrants under “inhumane” conditions and a Oct. 13, 2013 shipwreck near Lampedusa in which 266 people died.
—Fitiwi Abdelrazak, described by the committee as leader “of a transnational network responsible for trafficking and smuggling tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from the Horn of Africa to the coast of Libya and onwards to destination countries in Europe and the United States.” It said he has been described, including in several criminal investigations, “as one of the top-level actors responsible for the exploitation and abuse of a large number of migrants in Libya.” The committee said Abdelrazak “has accumulated immense wealth through the illicit trafficking of migrants.” He is linked to at least two fatal shipwrecks between April 2014 and July 2014.
—Ahmad Oumar Al-Dabbashi, described by the committee as commander of the Anas al-Dabbashi militia currently active around Zawiya. It said “there is extensive evidence that Al-Dabbashi’s militia has been directly involved in the illicit trafficking and smuggling of migrants, and that his militia controls departure areas for migrants, camps, safe houses and boats.” The committee said the militia has longstanding links with the Islamic State group in North Africa.
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