SOCIALIST PEOPLE’S LIBYAN ARAB JAMAHIRIYA: Cold-blooded murder of Copts in Libya a war crime

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21 Feb 2015
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Regional conflict

The horrific execution-style killing of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya by the group calling itself the Tripoli Province of Islamic State is a war crime and an attack on the fundamental principles of humanity, Amnesty International said today.

A video published online by the media wing of the armed group purports to show the beheadings of 21 Copts, mostly Egyptians, on a beach in an unknown location in the province of Tripoli. The atrocity was carried out in retaliation for the alleged abduction of Camilia Shehata, an Egyptian woman, formerly a Christian, whose conversion to Islam sparked a wave of protests in 2010.

Nothing could justify the cold-blooded murder of the men who appear to have been targeted solely on account of their faith, Amnesty International has said.

The video shows a group of men dressed in orange jumpsuits who are paraded on the beach by masked men, then forced to kneel, and then beheaded.

This atrocious killing and carefully orchestrated video is a vicious act of cruelty aiming at terrorizing people in Libya, Egypt and across the world. Amnesty International has said. It is particularly devastating for the victims’ families who are in a state of utter shock. Amnesty International calls on the Egyptian authorities ensure that they receive the psychological and social support they require. The Egyptian authorities must act on their promise to deliver financial compensation to the families of the victims who come from poor communities in Upper Egypt and may have lost their breadwinners.

Egyptian Coptic Christians have suffered discrimination for decades, particularly in relation to building and maintaining their places of worship, while the Egyptian authorities have failed to protect the community from numerous sectarian attacks.

According to the families of the 20 Egyptian Coptic migrants, they were abducted in two separate incidents in the area of Sirte, in north-western Libya, where they had been living and working, on 29 December 2014 and  on 3 January 2015.

On 13 February 2015, an online magazine issued by the armed group claimed that the abductions were carried out in reprisal for the alleged persecution of Muslim women, including Camilia Shehata, in Egypt, by the Coptic Church. In 2010, Camilia Shehata, went missing amidst rumours that she had been abducted. She was later found by the Egyptian police and handed over to the church.

Amnesty International calls on all armed groups and relevant authorities to intensify their efforts to establish the fate and whereabouts of seven other Egyptians, most of them Copts, who have gone missing.


Religious minorities have been increasingly targeted in post al-Gaddafi Libya, and have been subjected to abductions, torture and other ill-treatment, and unlawful killings, particularly in Benghazi and Sirte.

Since the end of the 2011 armed conflict, Sirte has become a stronghold of Islamist armed groups, including Ansar al-Shari’a, which aims at enforcing its own interpretation of Islamic Law and which has been accused of serious human rights abuses.

In November 2014, a Libyan armed group declared its allegiance to the armed group calling itself Islamic State, and announced the establishing of the Tripoli Province, which includes several cities in the west of the country, including Sirte, Tripoli, Misratah and Zawiya.

16 February 2015
Amnesty International Public Statement

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