NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The sale of immigrants to slavery in Libya may constitute crimes against humanity, the United Nations Security Council said on Thursday, expressing "grave concern" after the appearance of images to show the Africans being auctioned off there global outrage.
The 15-member council unanimously adopted a formal statement calling on the Libyan authorities to investigate the reports of immigrants sold and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The Libyan government backed by the United States last month said it would take action after a video aired by CNN, which appeared to show the auction of African immigrants as farm workers for $ 400, sparked protests in Europe and Africa.
"The Security Council expresses great concern about reports of immigrants being sold as slaves in Libya," the statement said. "() Condemns these actions as heinous abuses of human rights that may also constitute crimes against humanity."
Young Africans bound for Europe are often trapped in trafficking networks and sold to work in Libya, where many immigrants are detained, tortured and even killed, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
IOM said last week that it was working with its partners to try to empty the detention centers, which human rights groups considered inhuman and estimated to house some 20,000 migrants.
The Security Council also said that the Libyan authorities should work with international organizations and UN agencies to guarantee humanitarian access to detention centers in the country.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants are believed to be in illegal Libya, and many of them are in the hands of smugglers locked away in a country consumed by factional violence since the strong man Muammar Gaddafi was ousted six years ago.
"Reports that people escaping violence are being sold as slaves in Libya are terrible," United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement. "All countries must do everything possible to put an end to this barbaric practice."
The declaration was adopted weeks after the Security Council unanimously endorsed a resolution urging tougher measures to end modern trafficking and slavery around the world.
The resolution called on countries to adopt anti-trafficking laws, increase efforts to investigate and dismantle criminal networks, and provide greater support to survivors of slavery.
Writing by Kieran Guilbert, Edition by Katy Migiro. Please give credit to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable branch of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org