Four human rights organizations: Mudafea (Defender) for Human Rights, Tahara, Libyan Crime Watch, and Lawyers for Justice, called for the establishment of an independent international investigation mechanism to probe the responsibility of the state and its institutions and to identify those responsible for the disaster of the collapse of the two dams in the city of Derna, urging for bringing the ones accountable to justice and giving compensations for the victims.
The groups announced in a joint statement their support for the demands of the residents of the city of Derna to conduct an impartial, fair and independent investigation into the worsening disaster of the collapse of the two dams, which resulted in thousands of victims. They also launched a Libyan initiative called “Accountability First” group to support the demands of the residents of the city of Derna and the affected communities in eastern Libya, as an open channel for the public to receive information and suggestions with the aim of communicating the voices and demands of survivors to the Libyan and international entities.
They also said that the newly-established group would work on analyzing and searching for the appropriate form of the required investigation body, its competencies, and the goal of its work based on the demands of survivors and affected communities, and work with Libyan and international organizations and experts in the field of corruption, climate change, crisis management, and human rights to communicate the demands of affected communities to the international community to investigate corruption, negligence and abuse of power committed by the Libyan authorities that worsened the disaster.
The four groups pointed out the attempts of Libyan officials to highlight the disaster as resulting from sudden climate changes and to deny their responsibility for the aggravation of the disaster, adding that the Head of the World Meteorological Organization stressed the possibility of avoiding this huge number of victims in Derna, and that the failure to take the necessary measures, including advance warning and emergency management bodies coordinating population evacuation efforts, resulted in the worsening of the humanitarian disaster in Derna.
They also referred to an announcement by a spokeswoman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs that the Libyan authorities had refused entry to a United Nations team that was scheduled to go to the city of Derna to contribute to confronting the effects of the disaster in there. They considered that the response of the government appointed by the House of Representatives to the disaster was late, and it only satisfied itself with issuing a decision to dismiss all members of the Derna municipal council and referring them for investigation, after the outbreak of protests in the city.
The joint statement said that the authorities carried out a campaign of arrests of some participants in the protests that took place in Derna, and placed them in detention conditions that could amount to enforced disappearance. It added that there were also reports of warnings received by local journalists to refrain from covering the protests and popular anger. In addition, the Libyan authorities issued instructions to local and foreign journalists to leave Derna, claiming that they are hindering rescue work.
The groups pointed out that the Internet and telephone networks in Derna were cut off in the wake of the protests, which the government justified as a result of damaged fiber optic cables, in addition to “online social media pages loyal to the authorities in eastern Libya inciting against and targeting activists, male and female human rights defenders to silence them.