The discovery of slave markets just a stone's throw away from Libya’s capital city continues to draw condemnation from across the globe.
U.S. broadcaster CNN revealed the horrific discovery on Tuesday in a report headlined: “People for sale: Where lives are auctioned for $400”.
“Carrying concealed cameras into a property outside the capital of Tripoli last month, we witness a dozen people go "under the hammer" in the space of six or seven minutes. "Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he'll dig," the salesman, dressed in camouflage gear, says. "What am I bid, what am I bid?"
Buyers raise their hands as the price rises, "500, 550, 600, 650 ..." Within minutes it is all over and the men, utterly resigned to their fate, are being handed over to their new "masters."”
The report sparked instant international outrage. The UN Human Rights chief, Zeid Al Hussein, said in a statement: “The suffering of migrants detained in Libya is an outrage to the conscience of humanity. What was an already dire situation has now turned catastrophic.” Hussain described the European Union’s policy of assisting the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept and return migrants as “inhuman”. “We cannot be a silent witness to modern day slavery, rape and other sexual violence, and unlawful killings in the name of managing migration and preventing desperate and traumatized people from reaching Europe’s shores,” he added.
Amnesty International expressed shock over the horrific footage.
Ivorian reggae musician, Alpha Blondy, posted a Facebook video calling on the African Union to take decisive action against migrant abuses in Libya. “This cry of the heart is not a call to violence, but I ask all Africans and all those who were shocked by this act that constitutes a crime against humanity to besiege all the Libyan embassies in their respective countries, until the total liberation of all captives in Libya territory”.
His call was answered by hundreds of protestors who have demonstrated on Saturday outside the Libyan Embassy in Paris.
French footballer and English Premier League player, Paul Pogba, prayed for those affected by slavery in Libya.
William Lacy Swing, director general of the UN Migration Agency, wrote a piece on CNN website entitled, “The abuse of migrants in Libya is a blot on the world's conscience”.
Senegal’s Sadio Mane, another Premier League footballer, took to Instagram to voice his displeasure: "More than a century after the abolition of slavery, this inhuman practice at the ugly limit continues to rage in Libya. #Notoslavery"
Map published by CNN shows that most migrant auctions are taking place in areas controlled by Libya’s UN-backed government.
As usual, political pundits jumped at the report to score points against their opponents. Domestically, it was used by opponents of the Government of National Accord (GNA), Libya’s UN-backed government, who blamed the scandal on the GNA and saw it as proof that the GNA is controlled by criminal militias.
Internationally, it was used by the likes of George Galloway, a British politician who opposed NATO’s military intervention that led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi, who blamed Libya’s migrant crisis on western leaders.
InfoWars, a right wing American outlet, accused CNN of “whitewashing slave block auction in Libya”.
Libyan Government’s Reaction
The world had to wait until Friday to hear the first official comment from the GNA. “A high-level committee has been convened encompassing representatives from all the security apparatus to oversee this investigation,” Anes Alazabi, an official from that government’s Anti-Illegal Migration Agency told CNN. “Priorities of the investigation are not only to convict those responsible for these inhumane acts, but also to identify the location of those who have been sold in order to bring them to safety and return them to their countries of origin,” he added.
On Saturday, the country’s National Commission for Human Rights described CNN report as "exaggerated". "We express our deep resentment at the false and exaggerated information in the report published by CNN about the slave markets in several Libyan cities including Tripoli," the Commission said. "Contrary to what CNN has published, slave trade in Libya is secret and limited. The Commission expresses concern about the policies, attitude and statements from the European Union in general and Italy in particular, which seek to exaggerate the suffering and tragedy of migrants and refugees in Libya".
Reactions on Libyan social media websites varied from shock to defensive to denial. Nadia Ramadan, a Libyan woman from Tripoli, expressed her shock at the CNN report:
Azza Maghur, a prominent female lawyer from Tripoli blamed the scandal on Italy and the European Union.
Other Libyan social media users retweeted the hashtag #LibyansAgainstSlavery to voice their condemnation and accused criminal militias of running the slave markets.