The United Nations Human Rights chief on Tuesday called for the creation of humanitarian corridors in and around the Libyan capital Tripoli, so civilians, migrants, and refugees could be safely evacuated from fighting areas.
Michele Bachelet urged a ceasefire and warned that heavy shelling in densely populated areas violated international, humanitarian and human rights laws.
Bachelet’s call comes as fighting escalated again in Tripoli as eastern commander Khalifa Haftar was pushing to capture the capital.
According to residents, shelling was heard in the centre of the city coming from Southern districts.
Haftar’s three-week-old offensive to seize Libya’s capital – the seat of the country’s internationally recognized government – has sharpened a power struggle that has fractured Libya since Muammar Gaddafi’s fall in 2011.
The assault by the Haftar-led Libyan National Army (LNA), which is allied to the parallel government based in the eastern city of Benghazi, had stalled on Tripoli’s stoutly defended southern outskirts last week.
According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), 42 000 people have been displaced since the start of the clashes early in April but many remain trapped and are frightened to leave their homes.
146 refugees, most of whom had been transferred earlier this month from detention centres near the fighting, were evacuated on Monday from Libya to Italy, where their asylum claims were to be processed.
But 3 300 migrants and refugees remain trapped in detention centres near the Tripoli clashes.
The UN’s Human Rights chief urged a ceasefire but divisions among European and Gulf nations over how to deal with Haftar have scuppered UN efforts to broker a ceasefire between the main factions to prepare Libya for elections to help reunify the North African country.