UN probing reported mass grave on Libya-Tunisia border

Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, attends an event commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 11 2023.
Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, attends an event commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 11 2023.
Image: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

The UN human rights chief said on Tuesday his office was following up on reports of a mass grave in the desert along the Libya-Tunisia border, after the bodies of at least 65 migrants were found at another site earlier this year.

In a speech, Volker Turk denounced widespread violations against migrants and refugees in Libya, which straddles a dangerous transit route that runs through the Sahara Desert and across the southern Mediterranean.

Abuses against migrants were being “perpetrated at scale, with impunity” by state and non-state actors, Turk said, listing crimes including human trafficking, torture, forced labour, extortion, starvation, detention and mass expulsions.

“I urge the authorities to respond swiftly to our inquiries, and to investigate these crimes fully,” he told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in a speech addressing Libya's human rights record over the past year.

He gave no further details of the suspected identity of the mass grave victims or how the site was found. A spokesperson at Turk's office said: “We have not received information from the authorities, but we are continuing to follow up on this.”

In March, at least 65 bodies of migrants were discovered at a mass grave site in southwest Libya's al-Jahriya valley about 420km south of Tripoli, the UN-affiliated International Organisation for Migration said.

Libya and Tunisia are vital partners in the EU's efforts to stem the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean from North Africa into southern Europe.


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