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U.S., U.N. sanction Libyan 'migrant-smuggling kingpin' for human rights abuses

U.S., U.N. sanction Libyan 'migrant-smuggling kingpin' for human rights abuses
The Treasury under Secretary Janet Yellen imposed sanctions Tuesday against a Libyan national for committing human rights abuses against migrants. File Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 27 (UPI) -- The United States and the United Nations separately sanctioned a Libyan national accused of committing "serious" human rights abuses against migrants in the African nation.

The Treasury on Tuesday designated Osama Al Kuni Ibrahim, the head of the Al-Nasr Detention Center in Zawiyah, which is about 30 miles west of Tripoli, where he is accused of systematically exploiting African migrants under his care.

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Known as a "migrant-smuggling kingpin," Al Kuni is accused killing, exploiting, abusing and extorting migrants at the detention center or directing others to do so, the federal department said in a statement, adding that some of the abuses were through sexual violence, beatings, starvation and other forms of mistreatment,

"Treasury is taking this action to promote accountability and expose the illicit activities of those abusing and exploiting migrants transiting Libya in pursuit of a better and more secure life," said Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea Gacki. "Treasury calls on Libya's Government of National Unity to hold accountable Al Kuni and others perpetuating such abuse."

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The sanctions freeze all of Al Kuni's assets and bar U.S. citizens from doing business with him.

On Monday, the United Nations added Al Kuni to its list of sanctioned individuals, saying he acted on behalf of Mohamed Kashlaf and Abdulrahman al Milad, two previously blacklisted members of the Zawiyah human trafficking network.

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The State Department has listed Libya as a Special Case for the sixth consecutive year on its Trafficking in Persons Report for this year.

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"There were continued reports that criminal networks, militia groups, government officials and private employers exploited migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers in sex and labor trafficking," the report read. "Endemic corruption and militias' influence over government ministries contributed to the GNA's inability to effectively address human trafficking."

The report details "several credible sources" detailing how migrants held in detention centers were subject to "severe abuse, rampant sexual violence and forced labor."

As of February, organizations estimated there were more than 1,550 migrants and refugees in government affiliated detention centers, the report said.

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However, the report said there is an unknown number detained in informal detention facilities affiliated with non-state armed groups and there is an unknown number detained in criminal prisons affiliated with the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense.

The sanctions in the U.N. follow France and Germany in late January proposing Al Kuni be blacklisted.

"We hope it will intervene as soon as possible," Nicolas de Riviere, France's permanent representative to the U.N., said then in a statement.

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