The information below is based on the Report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (A/66/782-S/2012/261) issued on 26 April 2012.
Since the conflict began in mid-February 2011, the United Nations has received numerous reports of grave violations against children in Libya throughout the reporting period. Owing to fighting, the lack of access to affected populations, especially in Sirte and Misrata, and the absence of systematic monitoring and reporting, grave violations against children, including child casualties, were not systematically documented. As a result, even though a total of 129 cases of killing and 247 cases of maiming of children were recorded, mostly in Misrata, Tawargha, Bani Walid and Tripoli, 53 incidents of killing of children (16 girls and 37 boys) and 96 incidents of maiming (18 girls and 78 boys) were verified, mostly in Benghazi, Tripoli, Misrata, Brega, Tawargha, Ajdabiya and Nafusa. The main causes of death and injury were shelling by former Government forces (in particular in Misrata) and crossfire between former Government forces and opposition groups. For example, between mid-February and mid-August 2011, Brega Hospital admitted 24 children, 15 of whom had been shot and 9 injured by explosions. According to medical personnel in Misrata, Benghazi and Zlitan, in addition to shelling, the association of boys with armed groups was also reported as a cause of killing and maiming. Explosive remnants of war contamination also led to a significant number of child casualties. The most affected areas were Ajdabiya, Nalut, Zinten, Sirte and Bani Walid, especially as displaced populations returned to their homes.
Child casualties were also reported in the context of military operations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Libya. The Commission of Inquiry on Libya stated that NATO “conducted a highly precise campaign with a demonstrable determination to avoid civilian casualties” (A/HRC/19/68, para. 812). However, it documented at least 10 deaths of children in the course of NATO operations in Majer, Tripoli, Zlitan and Sirte. For example, the Commission found that at least seven children were killed in an airstrike in Majer on 8 August 2011. In addition, the United Nations gathered information on 11 cases of deaths (three boys and eight girls) and a further 11 cases of injuries (four boys and seven girls) related to NATO operations in Brega.
The presence of children in armed forces and armed groups was broadly reported in the context of the conflict in Libya, including by the Commission of Inquiry, but the constraints for monitoring and reporting mentioned above prevented the United Nations from verifying all reported incidents. The Commission found strong evidence that, during the fighting, former Government forces recruited and used children. The Commission was also very concerned about the reports of children who had formed part of the opposition forces/brigades associated with the National Transitional Council, also known as the “thuwar”, in the Nafusa Mountains. Seventeen cases of recruitment of boys were verified in 2011, which represents only a portion of the actual scope as estimated by witness accounts. Reports indicated that children associated with former Government forces undertook military training and were engaged in fighting alongside adult combatants.
Verified information was also received on the presence of children in opposition forces and brigades associated with the National Transitional Council during the conflict. Children were spotted undertaking military training, carrying weapons, wearing uniforms and performing various tasks in support of combat operations. At the end of 2011, children were seen manning checkpoints and providing security, which remains a concern. On 20 May 2011, the National Transitional Council reportedly issued directives to all front-line troops not to recruit children. The United Nations has not been able to confirm this claim at the time of writing. The current Government of Libya is working with the Office of my Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict to address the issue of children remaining associated with some brigades.
Concerns remain over the detention of children for alleged association with armed forces of the former regime. The Commission of Inquiry documented four cases of boys who were detained by brigades, together with adults, for association with former Government forces. In addition, five separate cases of abduction and detention of boys, aged 15 to 17 years, were documented by the United Nations. The boys, from the Tawargha community, were taken from internally displaced persons camps by opposition forces/brigades to military bases or security facilities for interrogation. Detention lasted from one day (four cases) to five days (one case). All boys reported being victims of ill-treatment and acts tantamount to torture during their detention.
Twenty-seven attacks on schools and four attacks on hospitals were documented in 2011, in particular in Zlitan, Ajdabiya, Misrata, Nalut, Zinten and Sirte. For reasons mentioned above, this number reflects only a portion of all incidents that took place. A majority of these cases were attributed to former Government forces and opposition forces and brigades. One case was attributed to NATO. These attacks included shootings at schools and hospitals, shelling, airstrikes, improvised explosive devices, looting of medical supplies and the use of facilities by the military. This resulted in partial or total destruction of health and education facilities and in disrupted provision of services. During an airstrike, NATO hit the Institute of Health in Tigi, in August 2011, on the basis of intelligence assessment that it was a missile and ammunition storage site for the former Government forces.
At the end of 2011, the continued presence of armed brigades and sporadic clashes between these brigades posed a challenge to the Libyan authorities in their efforts to contain the overall security situation. In this context, children remained vulnerable to association with these brigades, displacement and exposure to explosive remnants of war and the widespread presence of small arms and light weapons.