A confidential European Union military report calls for continuing a controversial EU program to train and equip Libya’s coast guard and navy despite growing concerns about their treatment of migrants, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
The report, circulated to EU officials this month and obtained by The Associated Press, offers a rare look at Europe’s determination to support Libya in the interception and return of tens of thousands of men, women and children to Libya.
Compiled by Italian navy Rear Adm. Stefano Turchetto, head of the EU arms embargo surveillance mission, or Operation Irini, the report acknowledges the “excessive use of force” by Libyan authorities, adding that EU training is “no longer fully followed.”
The EU report acknowledges “the political stalemate” in Libya has hindered Europe’s training program, noting that the country’s internal divisions make it difficult to obtain political support for enforcing “proper behavioral standards … compliant with human rights, especially when dealing with irregular migrants.”
The EU report noted the “excessive use of physical force” by a Libyan patrol during the Sept. 15 interception of a wooden boat with about 20 migrants off the coast of Libya.
The Libyan forces used tactics “never observed before and not in compliance with (EU) training … as well as international regulation,” said the report. It provided no further details about what exactly happened.
A spokesman for the Libyan coast guard did not respond to The Associated Press’ requests for comment about that incident or the EU report.
The Associated Press said the European Commission and the EU’s External Action Service declined to comment on the report. But spokesman Peter Stano confirmed the EU is determined to train coast guard personnel and bolster Libya’s capacity to manage a massive search-and-rescue area of the Mediterranean.
The EU training program “remains firm on the table to increase the capacity of the Libyan authorities to save lives at sea,” Stano said.