The United Nations Security Council and the United States have imposed sanctions on a Libyan official over the alleged abuse and torture of migrants in a detention center.
The Security Council and the U.S. said in separate statements late Tuesday that Osama al-Kuni is the de facto head of a detention center in the North African nation's west. Migrants there are said to have been subjected to torture, sexual and gender-based violence and human trafficking.
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 dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The country subsequently slid into chaos, with rival governments and parliaments based in its western and eastern regions, each backed by different militias and tribes.
The al-Nasr Martyrs detention center is located in the western town of Zawiya, home of two of the country’s most wanted human traffickers, Abdel-Rahman Milad, and militia leader Mohammed Kachlaf.
Both Milad and Kachlaf were sanctioned by the Security Council in 2018 over allegations of human trafficking and abuse of migrants.
A spokesman for the Libyan government did not answer calls seeking comment.
In its statement Tuesday, the U.N. sanctions committee said al-Kuni “has acted for or on behalf of or at the direction” of Milad and Kachlaf.
The Department of the Treasury blamed al-Kuni on “systematic exploitation of African migrants at the detention center where these migrants are subject to various human rights abuses.”
It said he or others under his direction “have been involved in or facilitated the killing, exploitation, abuse, and extortion of migrants at the detention center, including through sexual violence, beatings, starvation, and other mistreatment.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged the Libyan government to hold al-Kuni and others implicated in human rights abuses accountable.
Libya holds migrants in overcrowded detention centers, like al-Nasr, where torture, sexual assault and other abuses are rife. Detention center guards beat and tortured migrants, then extorted money from their relatives, supposedly in exchange for their freedom, The Associated Press reported earlier this month.
U.N.-commissioned investigators said earlier this month that abuse and ill treatment of migrants in Libya amount to crimes against humanity.