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Libya civil war: 10,000 people missing, rights group says | News



Libya has faced a tidal wave of internal conflict that has claimed thousands of lives since Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow in 2011.

Between civil wars, the Abu Salim prison massacre, Gaddafi’s regional conflicts, and a tendency to “disappear” political dissidents during his reign, many thousands of Libyans have lost loved ones to political conflict and instability.

This is the reality of war and dictatorship. But the widespread disappearance of human beings is often overlooked as a consequence.

Sunday marks the International Day of the Disappeared. Each year August 30 draws attention to those who have gone missing and the resulting suffering of their families and friends.

The cost of war

Across the African continent, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has recorded 44,000 people as missing. Shockingly, almost half of these people were children at the time of their disappearance.

But the ICRC only records a missing person when a family member opens a case with the organisation.

“This caseload is a drop in the ocean,” said Sophie Marsac, ICRC’s regional adviser for the missing and their families in Africa.

In Libya, for instance, the ICRC has registered more than 1,600 people as missing. But according to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), which aims to keep a record of every disappearance, some 10,000 people are currently disappeared in Libya alone.

It is not an unusual number after such a long period of conflict and instability. The conflicts and atrocities that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia, for example, are estimated to have seen 40,000 people go missing. While in Syria and Iraq, the ICMP’s estimates start at 100,000 and 250,000 people, respectively.

Largely, these numbers comprise those who went missing during years of dictatorship and conflict. But, in Libya, a significant portion can also be attributed to slavery, human trafficking, and Libya’s position on the migration route to Europe.

The moral importance of these findings cannot be overstated. Every missing person leaves behind a family, often with little support, facing psychological, legal and economic challenges for years after their loved ones disappear.

“I hardly sleep,” said Kaltum, from Nigeria, whose daughter went missing nine years ago. “I feel it in my heart that my daughter is alive. I still have hope.”

Kaltum’s daughter went missing in Nigeria nine years ago. More than half of the 44,000 cases of missing people registered with the ICRC in Africa are children [Courtesy: ICRC]

‘I still have hope’

Today, there are organised international efforts to determine the fate of missing individuals around the globe.

In the Western Balkans, for example, the ICMP pioneered the use of DNA matching and strict database informatics to locate and identify thousands of missing people. And today, 70 percent of those who disappeared following the conflicts of the early 1990s have now been accounted for.

In Libya, the ICMP said it has made remarkable progress since signing a cooperation agreement with the government in November 2012.

Alongside the Ministry for the Families of Martyrs and the Missing (MFMM), the ICMP helped develop the Libyan Identification Centre to act as a focal point for investigations across the country. And since then, the ICMP has significantly enhanced the technical and scientific capacities of the MFMM by providing specialised training courses in forensic archaeology, crime-scene management, and DNA reference-sample collection.

Altogether, the ICMP has helped authorities identify 150 individuals, and collect genetic reference samples representing more than 2,500 missing people from all over Libya. Given the political instability sweeping across the country, this is a significant result.

However, much of the organisation’s work is “intelligence-based”, meaning a lot of time is spent interviewing witnesses and survivors of political crimes before heading out into the field to search for physical evidence.

Since the outbreak of civil war in 2014, the continued threat of violence has made such operations incredibly dangerous, forcing the ICMP to suspend its Libyan mission.

Excavations in mass graves found in Tarhuna liberated from Haftar militia

Excavations of mass graves found in Tarhuna, Libya in June [Hazem Turkia/Anadolu]

New challenges

International organisations have come to expect such challenges in their line of work. But these difficulties have only been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept across the globe.

It is now impossible for ICRC analysts to gather large groups of people to listen for names or look through photos, and with many countries suspending travel between states or provinces, it has become extremely difficult to undertake large-scale searches.

So the ICMP helped pioneer the use of satellite imagery and spectral analysis to identify the boundaries of mass graves.

According to the ICRC, their family links-tracing websites – Trace the Face Southern Africa and Trace the Face Europe – have been useful amid the limitations associated with COVID-19, as relatives can now continue their search remotely using a vast database of digital photographs.

These tools help keep the search for the missing alive. But, despite the best efforts of the ICMP and the ICRC, thousands are still left wondering about the fate of their loved ones.

It is not just about closure for the families of missing persons, but about government responsibility, justice, and societal healing.

Alongside obvious ethical obligations, states also have a legal responsibility to account for the missing. The vast majority of these disappearances are a product of political crimes, and it is the state’s responsibility to hold those responsible to account.

As Kathryne Bomberger, director general of the ICMP, explained: “Accounting for the missing is a moral obligation, but it is also – and this is crucial – a legal obligation.

“All families of all missing persons have a right to justice. States are legally obliged to investigate the whereabouts of the missing and the circumstances of their disappearance in line with the rule of law,” she told Al Jazeera.

But effective efforts to discover missing people necessitate cooperation between countries, international institutions, and civil society. By involving the state in the discovery and prosecution processes, Bomberger said the organisation also hopes to strengthen national institutions.

In Libya, for example, the ICMP has helped facilitate cooperation between civil society and local government, and has helped develop an institutional and legal framework to account for missing persons.

Such operations are vital to the development of strong institutions, and by guaranteeing the rights of its citizens the state also bolsters its own legitimacy – something often lacking in post-conflict societies.

Beyond this, the process of searching for and discovering missing individuals also helps build an accurate record of a nation’s history, which is itself key to maintaining peace in delicate, post-conflict states.

Such societies are fragile and by exploiting popular fears and resentments, unscrupulous leaders can often drag them back towards violence and civil war. But a historical record based on scientific fact greatly reduces the possibility for future leaders to foment distrust, hate, and conflict.

“Accounting for the missing is an investment in peace and stability,” Bomberger said.

Future prospects

Nevertheless, the future of these projects appears relatively uncertain.

In Libya this week, renegade commander Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) rejected the ceasefire announcement made by the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA). These two factions represent the main forces in Libya’s ongoing civil war, and Haftar’s dismissal casts doubt over what was at least a fragile peace.

Combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, charities and international organisations are facing more and more obstacles in their search for the missing.

But these organisations are incredibly resilient. In Iraq, for example, the ICMP has helped establish legislative, government, and civil society initiatives that are working together to locate missing persons, prosecute those guilty for their disappearance, and support the families of the missing.

All this has been achieved despite continuing unrest across the country, demonstrating the remarkable progress that can be made given the necessary effort and political will.

As Marsac explained: “International Day of the Disappeared should remind us that an untold number of families are searching for a loved one, many of them parents looking for a child. The tragedy of missing people is a humanitarian crisis and one that cannot be forgotten as the world focuses on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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Another blow as Judge throws out Kiggundu’s lawyer Muwema



When court sat on Friday to hear the Kiggundu’s application to stop independent audit, he did not have a written application, and Justice Henry Adonyo instead ordered the plaintiff’s lawyer Fred Muwema to go make a written application seeking court to dismiss the audit and return to court on September 30 for a hearing of the application. But this adds more pressure on Kiggundu who is choking with the loans.

On 31 August, the judge ordered the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU) to carry out and independent audit into the accounts of the businessman and financial statements exchanged between the two parties, and present a report to court.

When asked by journalists why he has filed for an application seeking dismissal of the audit, Fred Muwema had this to say. “We are saying that let the validity and legality of those credit facilities (loans) be decided first before you can audit” He said.

The ruling on the application of the main suit to determine whether the businessman owes loan arrears to the bank is set for 5th October 2020, after which a date for hearing of the case will be set.


Hamis Kiggundu through his companies Ham enterprises and Kiggs International (U) ltd sued DTB branches in Kenya and Uganda for deducting money from his accounts something which the bank contends and said they only acted as per the loan agreement of deducting 30% from Kiggundu’s accounts to recover the credit facilities rendered to him between February 2011 and September 2016

But Court documents filed by the bank in their defense shows that Kiggundu, between February 2011 and September 2016, was granted various credit facilities by the said DTB Banks.

First, via Ham Enterprises Limited, Kiggundu obtained a loan of $6,663,453 and another Sh2.5bn from the DTB (U) to finance his projects in the real estate business.

Later, according to New Vision, he got a facility worth $4.5m through Kiggs International (U) Limited from DTB (K) and mortgaged his properties, which include Plot 328 located at Kawuku on Block 248 Kyadondo, three plots that include 36, 37 and 38 on Folio 1533 Victoria Crescent II situated in Kyadondo and land on Makerere Hill Road on LRV 3716 Folio 10 Plot 923 Block 9.

Documents show that as of January 21, 2020, Kiggundu was in default on payment obligations of $6.298m on the loan facility of $6.663m, as well as sh2.885b on the demand overdraft facility of sh1.5b and the temporary demand overdraft facility of sh1b.

The banks say that Kiggundu was in default on the payment of another $3.662m out of a total loan facility of $4m and another $458,604 on a loan facility of $500,000, as of January 21, 2020.

The DTB consequently served him with a demand notice to either pay up or lose the assets that he submitted as collateral security. The bank threatened to attach a plot on Makerere Hill Road and other prime commercial properties.

Analysts says that Kiggundu’s lawyer is playing delaying tactics aimed at stopping the independent audit as ordered by the court earlier. Kiggundu had wanted court to believe his own audit of loan transactions, but that would amount to injustice to the banks that gave him money-DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya.

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded




The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19




Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  

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