9. The Commission faced a number of significant challenges in carrying out its mandate in the period covered by this report:
(a) Having decided to return to Libya as soon after the HRC extended the mandate as possible, the Commission was nevertheless forced to postpone a visit scheduled in August 2011 due in part to lack of staff. The Secretariat had disbanded after the issuance of the first report, with its staff returning to their previous posts or having their contracts terminated. Despite the Commissioners’ urgings, recruitment procedures precluded a rapid return of the Secretariat staff. Indeed entirely new staff was recruited for the second stage, without input from the Commissioners although they sought to provide it, and the ensuing administrative process meant that the Secretariat did not return to full strength until mid-November 2011.20
(b) Security considerations also impacted the Commission’s ability to go to Libya in the period following its first report. Fighting continued throughout the summer with Tripoli falling to the thuwar21in late August 2011. Pitched battles in Bani Walid, Misrata, Sirte and the Nafusa Mountains – all priority areas for the Commission to visit – precluded access. Even after the close of hostilities in late October 2011, tensions amongst the various thuwar brigades remaining in and around Tripoli resulted in armed confrontations and deaths. The high number of security-related incidents prompted logistical and administrative restrictions on the movements of United Nations staff, significantly curtailing the number and scope of meetings and interviews.
(c) The Commission experienced some logistical difficulties in accessing detention centres. The obstacles were primarily due to difficulties in determining the entity in effective control of those facilities during the period of transition from control by individual thuwar brigades to control by interim Government. The Commission’s work was further hampered by the fact that centralised information on prisoner categories was limited. Despite requests to the Ministries of Justice and Defence, the Commission was only able to identify the nature of prisoners upon actually visiting each centre, which significantly hindered planning and prioritization.
(d) While the Commission insisted on, and for the most part succeeded in, conducting interviews with detainees in private, detention centre guards sometimes interrupted these private interviews to insist that detainees tell the Commission how well they were being treated, or to demand they “tell the truth”. Further, the Commission is aware that the most serious abuses are alleged to have occurred in “unacknowledged” detention centres in private houses and elsewhere, outside of the control of interim Government. The Commission was not able to identify specific unacknowledged detention centres.
(e) Certain locations where violations had allegedly occurred had been disturbed and/or cleaned prior to the Commission’s arrival, limiting the physical evidence available. Other locations were unsafe for investigation due either to structurally unsound buildings, the existence of unexploded ordnance (UXO), or authorities otherwise refusing to give permission for access.
(f) Many victims and prospective witnesses feared, or may have feared, speaking of their experiences given the on-going risk to themselves or to their families. The Commission was mindful of the need to avoid taking any actions which would endanger victims and witnesses.
10. Notwithstanding these constraints, the Commission considers that it has been able to gather a substantial body of material with respect to the violations of international human rights, international humanitarian law and international criminal law that have occurred.