Dutch initiative: UN sanctions against human traffickers in Libya

Criminals who are responsible for human trafficking and people smuggling in Libya are to be put on an international sanctions list. A Dutch proposal to this effect, aimed at tackling the appalling human rights situation of migrants and refugees in Libya, was approved unanimously today by the UN Security Council. As a member of the Security Council this year, the Netherlands is working for justice and human rights.

These sanctions will freeze all bank accounts belonging to six leaders of criminal networks and ban them from travelling internationally. Making economic resources available to these six will also be prohibited. This is the first time the UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on the leaders of violent human-trafficking and people-smuggling networks. ‘The Netherlands wants to use its Security Council seat to improve the lives of refugees and migrants in Libya and prevent them from making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean,’ said foreign minister Stef Blok.  

‘’The sanctions are part of a wider approach to tackling human trafficking and people smuggling, which the government intends to step up in line with the coalition agreement,’ explained Mark Harbers, State Secretary for Justice and Security. Over the past few years, large groups of migrants and refugees have crossed the sea from Libya to Europe. Criminals make big money out of people smuggling and exploiting migrants, who often encounter serious violence and suffer in other ways on their journey. Late last year a CNN report showed victims of human trafficking being sold at a slave market in Libya. Criminal networks benefit from the country’s culture of impunity. ‘This Dutch initiative sends a clear message,’ said Mr Blok. ‘We are tackling human trafficking in Libya.’

The Dutch Public Prosecution Service, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice and Security worked together to build a solid foundation for these sanctions, in a unique partnership between diplomats and legal experts. They made use of a combination of reports by authoritative NGOs, criminal investigations and UN reports on Libya. The Netherlands worked closely with several partners on this matter, in particular France, Germany, the UK and the US. 

The Dutch initiative had the support of all UN Security Council members and various African countries, as well as the Libyan authorities. ‘They know that these criminal networks are seriously destabilising the country,’ Mr Blok said. The support from Libya and other countries in the region is essential. 

The sanctions are not an isolated measure; they are a key part of a comprehensive effort by the entire international community to bring peace and stability to this war-torn country. The Libyan authorities would like to see the list expanded. The Netherlands plans to work with Libya and other partners to seek out ways of doing that.