Migrants stuck in Libya while trying to reach Europe are being systematically tortured and forced into sexual slavery -- a crime against humanity, a United Nations investigation said Monday.
The probe said it was deeply concerned at the deteriorating human rights situation in the conflict-torn North African country.
"There are grounds to believe a wide array of war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed by state security forces and armed militia groups," the investigators concluded.
"Migrants, in particular, have been targeted and there is overwhelming evidence that they have been systematically tortured" in detention centres, the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya said.
The report said there were reasonable grounds to believe that sexual slavery, a crime against humanity, was committed against migrants.
And the investigators voiced concern about the deprivation of liberty of Libyans and migrants throughout the country, in what they said could also amount to crimes against humanity.
They found numerous cases of "arbitrary detention, murder, torture, rape, enslavement, sexual slavery, extrajudicial killing and enforced disappearance, confirming their widespread practice in Libya".
People held in detention were regularly subjected to "torture, solitary confinement, held incommunicado, and denied adequate access to water, food, toilets, sanitation, light, exercise, medical care, legal counsel, and communication with family members", the investigators said.
But they said nearly all the survivors they interviewed did not lodge official complaints out of fear of reprisals, arrest, extortion and a lack of confidence in the justice system.
The three-member panel said there was a broad effort by the authorities in Libya to repress dissent by civil society.
The investigation found that Libyan authorities, notably the security sectors, were curtailing the rights to assembly, association, expression, and belief in order to ensure obedience, entrench self-serving values and norms, and punish criticism against authorities and their leadership.
The UN Human Rights Council set up the fact-finding mission in 2020 to investigate violations and abuses of human rights by all parties since the start of 2016.
The report was the mission's final update before its mandate expires.
Libya has seen more than a decade of stop-start conflict since the 2011 revolt that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with a myriad of militias forming opposing alliances backed by foreign powers.
It remains split between a nominally interim government in Tripoli in the west, and another in the east backed by military figurehead Khalifa Haftar.