A Libyan court has handed down heavy sentences to 37 people accused of human trafficking that caused the deaths of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean clandestinely to reach European shores, the public prosecutor’s office said on Monday.
The Court of Appeal in Al-Bayda, 800 km east of Tripoli, handed down its verdict against “persons belonging to a criminal gang who organised the departure by sea of illegal migrants on board a dilapidated boat, resulting in the death of 11 of them”, according to a statement from the Prosecutor’s Office.
The prosecutor’s office, which did not specify the identity or nationality of the accused, said that 37 people were found guilty, five of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment, nine to 15 years’ imprisonment, and the others to one year’s imprisonment.
Libya is a major transit point for tens of thousands of migrants seeking to reach Europe, the majority from sub-Saharan African countries.
As a result of the chaos that followed the 2011 uprising, the North African country has become a hub for human trafficking on the continent.
In a report published in March, the UN fact-finding mission on the human rights situation in Libya claimed that migrants trapped in Libya were reduced to sexual slavery, a crime against humanity.
This group of experts had already referred to probable crimes against humanity in detention centers for migrants in Libya, but this was the first time it had looked into the issue of slavery.
In October 2021, the United States and the UN imposed sanctions on a Libyan, Osama Al Kuni Ibrahim, accused of “horrific abuses against sub-Saharan migrants” in a detention center in Libya.