Human Rights Watch is urging an independent investigation in Libya to scrutinize the shortcomings in managing the floods that devastated the country’s east in September. The passage of Hurricane Daniel and the collapse of two dams on the night of September 10-11 caused extensive damage and led to the deaths of nearly 13,000 people in Derna, eastern Libya. The disaster also displaced 43,000 residents due to the destruction of entire neighborhoods. The Libyan Attorney General has announced the initiation of an investigation.
However, according to HRW, a transparent investigation is crucial because Libyan authorities should have evacuated people living in the flooded area in Derna at the first signs of danger. “I believe we need to get to the bottom of understanding how the collapse of two dams could have occurred. There is always a risk that it could happen elsewhere in Libya due to dysfunction attributable to government rivalries,” argues Eric Goldstein, HRW spokesperson for the Middle East and North Africa. “We need an investigation, not at the national level, but on an international scale.”
As a guarantee of transparency and credibility, HRW says it has proposed that the investigation be conducted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. “I believe there is not an entity in Libya capable of conducting an investigation that would provide the necessary answers,” continues Eric Goldstein. “It was more than a meteorological catastrophe; it was also a human failure. This happened in a country where there is a dysfunction of governance. There were many warnings that the dams needed maintenance, which was not provided.”