Libya: Empowered national forensic services to bring justice to smuggled migrants and victims of human trafficking

18th May 2021 - Tunis, Tunisia

Human trafficking and migrant smuggling are global and widespread crimes that use men, women, and children for profit. The organized networks or individuals behind these lucrative crimes take advantage of people who are vulnerable, desperate or simply seeking a better life. Forensics services are the main tool in gathering evidence which would be then used in court and within the criminal justice process to hold such organized networks or individuals accountable for their crimes and bring justice to smuggled migrants and victims of human trafficking.

UNODC organized in Libya the first in-person roundtable with national forensic services to empower their capacities as part of the UNODC - European Union (EU) funded regional project “Dismantling Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling Criminal Networks in North Africa.” One of the main targets of this project is working with relevant authorities on advancing their knowledge and skills in forensic evidence collection and preservation, as well as the chain of custody, during in-depth investigations.

“I express our gratitude to the EU and UNODC. Building on the roundtables held in 2020, I sincerely hope we will have a roadmap ready by the end of the week to develop forensic medicine practice in collaboration with the public prosecutor for a unified shared vision,” stated Doctor Ilyas Mohamed Alhamrouni, Forensic medicine expert representing the Libyan delegation, during the roundtable opening ceremony. The roundtable was in collaboration with 10 forensic and prosecution representatives of the Ministry of Justice, including the Forensic Medicine Department of the Judicial Expertise and Research Centre (JERC), and the Ministry of Health.

Through looking at real-life human trafficking and migrant smuggling case studies, the participants expanded their knowledge on delivering sound forensic science, including the proper (physical/live) crime scene management, coordination, and chain of custody. “Forensically speaking, the first priority is to strengthen the crime scene management and chain of custody, through harmonious SOPs, coordination, and communication, including documentation, to ensure the integrity of the evidence, which support on the long run, sometimes years after the crime scene, the investigators and prosecution. Protocols minimizes the risks of the chain of custody gaps, minimizing the risks of mistrials or none-receivability in a court of forensic evidence,” Ms. Stephanie Caubet, UNODC’s Regional Forensics Advisor clarified.

By the end of the session, participants and UNODC experts developed an action plan and a roadmap that identifies immediate, medium, and strategic priorities in terms of capabilities, and decides on priority trainings, standard operating procedures, and related equipment. This ensures that forensic services in Libya are always provided by highly qualified and trained individuals, under clear legal, organizational, and operational frameworks. Forensic science, in its broadest advantages, not only offers investigative tools to guide police investigations, but also acts as an intelligence-gathering tool, to detect trends, patterns, and links or further information on the trafficking routes and organized criminal networks.

Commenting on the workshop’s outcomes, Doctor Ilyas Mohamed Alhamrouni confirmed that “I am very glad of the results: the roadmap and the action plan are going to strengthen the whole system, in particular communications and multisectoral coordination amongst judges, prosecutors and forensics doctors. If we establish common protocols through SOPs and unite all the procedures at the regional level, as a consequence, the safety of migrants and people in Libya will also improve.”  

Dismantling the criminal networks operating in North Africa and involved in migrant smuggling and human trafficking" is a three-year (2019-2022) €15 million regional joint initiative by the European Union and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) under the framework of the North Africa Window of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. The project consists of a regional intervention covering Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia to support the effective dismantling of criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling and human trafficking, while at the same time upholding the rights of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, and vulnerable groups.

For more information:

Project Brief (EN)  (FR) 

Libya: Using forensics to hold criminals accountable and save lives

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Youtube: UNODC Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa (ROMENA)