HRW calls for independent inquiry into Derna flooding

Dec 6, 2023 | International actors

On 6 December, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that an independent inquiry is needed to review failings in Libyan authorities’ management of catastrophic flooding in eastern Libya in September 2023, which killed thousands and destroyed whole neighbourhoods in Derna and other towns in the Green Mountainsregion of eastern Libya. Hanan Salah, associate Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said ‘There’s good reason to believe that the storm would have been far less deadly had the authorities responded to the danger signs by evacuating people living in the flood zone.’

HRW noted that Libyan organisations have called for an independent international investigation. HRW stressed that given ‘prevailing impunity for past and ongoing abuses in the country and Libyan authorities’ inability or unwillingness to hold those responsible to account’, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN experts should initiate an investigation into the human rights violations and abuses involved in the crisis.

HRW cited a report published on 10 November by a group of researchers at the UN University which said that ‘political instability and a failure to properly maintain infrastructure, including the dams, exacerbated the harm caused by the storm.’ They established that the early warning systems, along with the ability to deliver accurate forecasts and provide workable crisis response strategies, were ‘inadequate’ given the lack of ‘cohesive governance for disaster prevention and risk management.’