The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) demands the evacuation of all Egyptians living in Libya, while stressing the importance of an active role for the International community to resolve the Crisis.

January 4th, 2015 by Editor

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) is alarmed and outraged by the recent acts of violence against Egyptian citizens living and working in Libya. The latest developments are a continuation of a chain of violent attacks that have targeted Egyptians over the past years, causing the, abduction, death and injury of many Egyptians. About 1 million Egyptians live and work in Libya, and they present a sizable part of Libya’s entire population that barley exceeds 6 million. A surge in the number of attacks targeting Egyptians took place after the 30th of June revolution in 2013, that ousted former president Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt. Many of the attacks have specifically targeted Coptic Christian Egyptians, which shows that the attacks carry political and religious motivations rather than criminal ones, and most of these attacks and abductions are believed to have been carried out by Extremist Islamist groups, some of which are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Brief overview on the situation in Libya:

By now the fact that Egyptians in Libya are in grave danger stands undisputed, and in order to understand the situation we need to look at the wider picture, and that is the ongoing conflict in Libya. Since the eruption of the Libyan revolution in February 2011, Libya has suffered from chaos, and wide scale violence, due to the absence of any efficient, functioning central government or state institutions. Since the fall of Mummar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya in the fall of 2011, the country has fallen under the yoke of hundreds of armed militias from various ideological backgrounds. Despite the holding of elections and the attempts at building state institutions, the Libyans have failed to restore stability especially after their failure to integrate the post-revolutionary militias and armed groups into the national army. Of course, these failures came after NATO aided in toppling Gaddafi with a ferocious military campaign where they carried out debilitating air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces, which paved the way for the rebels to capture Tripoli and ultimately kill Gaddafi himself. NATO however after achieving their military goals which was the elimination of Gaddafi, and the fall of his government, abandoned Libya, without exerting much effort to contribute to the state building process, and the restoration of stability which is imperative after such a perilous destructive civil war. The International community’s passivity and indifference towards the situation in Libya left it vulnerable to extremist forces who seized the initiative and attempted to control Libya by force. By mid-2014 the situation had already grown so tense, to the extent that it imploded, and a new civil war started, this time between Secular forces that control the Army, and Islamist forces who have links to supranational fundamentalist organizations such as Al Qaeda, The Islamic State, and the Muslim Brotherhood. To make things worse the parliamentary elections were held in August 2014 in this very polarized atmosphere, and the Islamists were crushed in the elections gaining only 30 seats out of a total of 200 seats in Parliament. The Transitional General National Congress, which is controlled by the Islamists, was supposed to turn over power to the new parliament; however, they did not, and the Islamists refused to recognize the election results, and thus did not hand over power to the elected Parliament. Since the Islamists control Tripoli, Libya’s parliament convened in Tobruk in the east where the National Army under the leadership of General Khalifa Haftar is in control. The Army recognized the new Parliament and the new government it formed, which split Libya in half; one half controlled by the elected internationally recognized government, while the other is controlled by the General National Congress that still maintains its grip on power refusing to hand it over. Amid this violence, the Egyptians living and working in Libya have suffered dearly, and were targeted because of their nationality and religion on various occasions and that maybe because of Egypt’s vehement support to the legitimate elected government in Tobruk.

 

Statistics of recent attacks against Egyptians in Libya:

-October, 2013: Abduction of 20 Egyptian Truck drivers in Ajdabia by militants who demanded the release of 13 Libyans in Egyptian Prisons

-27/08/2014: 4 Egyptian Copts abducted by militants

-29/09/2014: 70 Truck Drivers were abducted by unknown assailants in Badi.

-23/12/2014: Murder of a Coptic Christian couple, and the abduction of their 18 year old daughter who was 2 days later found dead, in Sirte.

-29/12/2014: 7 Egyptian Copts were abducted in Sirte

-3/1/2015: 13 Egyptian Copts abducted in Sirte

-An estimated 100 Egyptians were killed in Libya since February 2011.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s efforts to aid Egyptians residing in war-torn Libya:

 

The Egyptian authorities have paid great attention to the crisis Egyptians are facing Libya. The Foreign ministry has established a chamber of operations to follow up on the situation in coordination with official and local authorities in Libya. In addition to that the foreign ministry has intensified its contacts with the Libyan Government in Bayda, as well as the local authorities of Sirte, and a number of Tribal chiefs to work on resolving the situation, and on securing the lives of the kidnapped Egyptians. The Foreign Ministry maintains contact with the families of the abducted victims to inform them with any updates regarding their loved ones. As a further preventive measure the Egyptian foreign ministry has urged Egyptians not to travel to Libya, and advised Egyptians living in Libya to avoid areas witnessing open hostilities and clashes. Moreover the ministry sent a consular team to the Tunisian Egyptian border working around the clock to facilitate the way for Egyptians wishing to leave Libya.

 

Recommendations:

Despite the measures taken by the Egyptian authorities, the lives of thousands of Egyptians are still in grave danger, as they have become a target for extremist militant groups in Libya. The possible forced migration of the Egyptian community in Libya will be without a shout of a doubt a humanitarian crisis. Since the lives of Egyptians deserve more than a mere, follow up, the Egyptian state with its institutions and its Armed Forces, should unite the efforts to secure the return of Egyptians living in Libya based on Egypt’s legitimate right and obligation to secure and protect its citizens abroad according to international legal norms and customs. In this context the EOHR Recommends that:

1-      The Egyptian government should contact specific tribes through secret channels to aid in halting the abduction of Egyptians through knowing the demands of the abductors

2-      The Egyptian government should take all the necessary measures to secure the return of Egyptians from Libya through the border crossings, and they should keep warning Egyptians Libya to avoid being present at hostile areas, and even try to force them to return.

3-      Restrict and ban overland travel to Libya, and to offer air transport for Egyptians wishing to return, as well as creating safe passages.

4-      Egyptian authorities should agree with their Libyan counterparts to allow Egyptian intervention to protect its citizens within Libyan territories amid the deteriorating situation.

5-      The Egyptian government should work through the foreign ministry on aiding all Egyptians abroad, and on avoiding problems.

6-      The ministry of labor should offer jobs to Egyptians returning from Libya in the same fields they worked in, so that they may have a decent job opportunities in their own countries.

7-      The Egyptian government should heighten its security measures on the Libyan borders that presents a threat to national security due to arms smuggling, illicit migration that take place over there.

8-      EOHR recommends that the Egyptian government should include civil society, relief organizations and popular initiatives, to help on the issue in coordination with the executive authorities. The government should include those entities in a crisis management committee that we think should be established immediately.

9-      The International community has to take responsibility and intervene as soon as possible in Libya to counter the threat of terrorism. The policy of non-intervention has proven not to be very fruitful or effective especially with the relative ease the borders of Libyans neighbors can be infiltrated. Those neighboring states are legitimately concerned by the immediate and indirect effects and consequences of the conflict in Libya on them, therefor the international community should do the followings:

–          Support the establishment of a regional coalition to strongly fight terrorism in Libya, because it threatens international peace and security as well as the right to life. This of course should be in coordination with the United Nations.

–          Imposing of sanctions on entities and individuals committing armed acts of aggression in accordance with Security Council resolution 2174.

–          International actors should firmly stand behind UN efforts, and should be ready to participate in several ways including more aggressive diplomacy and sanctions.

–          The cessation of logistic support to armed militant groups, as all the armed factions are supported, armed and strengthened by active forces that support Islamist militias in Tripoli.

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