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Africa: Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

September 5, 2018

ENEVA, Switzerland, September 5, 2018,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Liz Throssell

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1/ Libya

Since the outbreak of violence in the Libyan capital Tripoli on 26 August, at least 21 civilians have been killed, including two women and two children, with a further 16 people injured. The parties to the conflict have been firing indiscriminately and using weapons with wide-area effects — including rockets, tank shells and artillery — in densely populated residential areas. We call on all parties to put an end to indiscriminate attacks and to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians and civilian objects.

We are also concerned about the impact of the conflict on groups in vulnerable situations, including migrants and internally displaced people. Some of the nearly 8,000 arbitrarily detained migrants are trapped in detention centres in areas where fighting has been taking place, without access to food or medical treatment.

Others have been released, but have not been able to access safety and essential services. Some of the migrants released from official detention centres are reported to have subsequently been taken into captivity by armed groups and are being forced to work for them.

On 2 September, at least two displaced Tawerghan men died and five women were injured when the al-Fallah IDP camp was shelled.Hundreds of families have been displaced in recent fighting, with some sheltering in schools. Others are believed to remain trapped in areas of active hostilities without electricity, water and food. We are also concerned by reports of pillage and looting.

According to information received by UNSMIL, humanitarian aid workers were shot at on Saturday, 1 September, while seeking to evacuate civilians trapped in an area near Khilat al-Firjan. The al-Kaniyat armed group is also alleged to have confiscated three ambulances from the Ambulance and Emergency Services.

We call on all parties to the conflict to facilitate immediate, unimpeded and safe access of humanitarian aid and aid-workers to civilians in need. We urge the warring parties to respect and protect personnel engaged in humanitarian relief, and to cease all attacks on medical transport and units, as well as to facilitate the safe and voluntary movement of civilians wishing to leave areas of active hostilities.

3/ Malawi

We are concerned about an increasing number of threats and intimidation against human rights defenders and activists in Malawi, with several incidents reported over

the past few weeks, including against women, ahead of next year’s general elections.

On 30 August 2018, a group of men attacked the offices of the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation in the capital city of Lilongwe asking for its Executive Director, Timothy Ntambo. The men reportedly demanded Ntambo’s home address and beat up a guard, who was left with broken teeth and in need of medical treatment. Later the same evening, a petrol bomb was thrown at the gate of the offices, causing an extensive fire. The incident is particularly worrying as it is reminiscent of a similar pattern of violence against the Centre that occurred in 2011 – a year marked with heightened attacks against civil society.

Several members of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition have also reportedly been intimidated and threatened over the past few weeks. In Zomba, in southern Malawi, thugs went to the house of one human rights defender last week demanding to see him in a threatening manner.  The Executive Director of Youth and Society, Charles Kajoloweka, received death threats after his NGO issued an anti-corruption press statement on 24 August. This is not the first time he has received death threats on account of his work. He has made a police complaint, but we understand that there have been no protection measures put in place for him.

We are also concerned about an emerging pattern of threats and violence against women Members of Parliament and electoral candidates. One female MP’s car was torched in Mangochi in the south of the country in August, while another was blocked from entering parliament in April and faced further intimidation and threats over the past two months.

We urge the authorities to ensure that attacks and threats against human rights defenders are thoroughly investigated and that the crucial work carried out by civil society actors is protected, in line with the Government’s international human rights obligations. It is particularly important in a pre-electoral context that an enabling environment is created for the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

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Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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