A Libyan court, in an unprecedented move, has issued severe prison sentences to three individuals charged with human trafficking. This represents a milestone judgement in a North African state notorious for the systemic maltreatment of migrants.
The defendants were found guilty of human trafficking, the unlawful detention and torture of migrants, and the extortion of relatives for their release by the Criminal Court of Tripoli. This was according to an announcement released on Friday by the office of the country’s chief prosecutor.
The court handed down a life sentence to one of the convicted individuals, while the remaining two have each been sentenced to twenty years in prison, as per the statement.
Further specifics regarding the identities or nationalities of the convicted were not included in the statement. On Saturday, no comments were available from the General Prosecutor al-Sediq al-Sourr.
Libya has been in a state of turmoil since the NATO-supported uprising in 2011 that led to the overthrow and subsequent death of longstanding dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Since then, Libya has become a prominent transit hub for migrants hoping to find a better life in Europe.
Human traffickers have exploited Libya’s instability and used the country’s extensive border with six nations to smuggle migrants. In desperation, these individuals are often crammed into inadequately equipped rubber boats and other vessels for hazardous journeys via the Central Mediterranean Sea route.
For many years, the United Nations and various human rights organisations have condemned the dreadful conditions faced by migrants trafficked and smuggled across the Mediterranean.
In March, human rights experts backed by the United Nations suggested there was evidence that crimes against humanity had been perpetrated against Libyans and migrants within the country, including women being coerced into sexual slavery.
Image Credit: AP / Joan Mateu Parra