On November 14, CNN published an exclusive report detailing what was then a rumored slave auction taking place in Libya’s capital, Tripoli. Since that initial report, the news outlet has spoken with a number of officials confirming what have been called “organized gangs” and “smuggling rings” operating throughout the country.
As world leaders congregate and protesters demonstrate for freedom, here is a timeline of the horrifying events reportedly unraveling in Libya.
CNN releases its exclusive report, “People for Sale: Where Lives Are Auctioned for $400,” after cell phone video footage of an alleged slave trade in Tripoli, Libya’s capital, begins making its rounds on the internet. At the time of CNN‘s initial report, nine auction locations are cited, and there are believed to be “many more.”
While First Lieutenant Naser Hazam of the government’s Anti-Illegal Immigration Agency in Tripoli hasn’t witnessed a slave auction himself, he tells CNN of “organized gangs” running “smuggling rings” in the country.
“They fill a boat with 100 people, those people may or may not make it,” Hazam said. “(The smuggler) does not care as long as he gets the money, and the migrant may get to Europe or die at sea.”
Libyan authorities launch a formal investigation into the slave auctions following CNN‘s first report.
“A high-level committee has been convened encompassing representatives from all the security apparatus to oversee this investigation,” Anes Alazabi, an official with Libya’s Anti-Illegal Immigration Agency, told the news outlet. “Priorities of the investigation are not only to convict those responsible for these inhumane acts, but also to identify the location of those who have been sold in order to bring them to safety and return them to their countries of origin.”
The investigation is welcomed by The International Organization for Migration, though its chief of mission for Libya warned “that the smuggling networks are becoming stronger, more organized and better equipped.”
He continued: “We definitely welcome the news for any investigation and we hope that this will cover not only this case but definitely all the cases of abuse and violence against migrants in Libya.”
Upon his return to English professional football (soccer) club Manchester United, midfielder Paul Pogba raises his arms in a handcuff gesture during a game against Newcastle United. “While very happy to be back, my prayers go to those suffering slavery in Libya,” he later explained on Instagram. “May Allah be by your side and may this cruelty come to an end!”
Protests erupt in Africa and France in the wake of news coverage. Particularly, hundreds of young Black protesters organize outside of the Libyan Embassy in central Paris to fight for “an end to the slavery and concentration camps in Libya.”
“We have to mobilize — we can’t let this kind of thing happen,” a protester told TV station France 24, according to The New York Times. “Did we really need to see such shocking pictures before taking a stand? I don’t think so.”
Police officers reportedly tear gassed organizers when the rally became violent.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for all countries to adopt the UN Convention Transnational Organized Crime and its protocol on human trafficking while expressing “horror” at news reports.
“I abhor these appalling acts and call upon all competent authorities to investigate these activities without delay and to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Guterres said. “I have asked the relevant United Nations actors to actively pursue this matter.”
The UN Security Council called for investigations into Libya slave auctions.
“In recent days we have all been horrified by images of African migrants being sold as ‘goods’ in Libya,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said during a meeting. “Slavery and other such egregious abuses of human rights have no place in the 21st century.”
Matthew Rycroft, the UK’s ambassador to the UN, added that images shared by CNN were shocking “because they showed that this most degrading form of exploitation is tragically not a thing of the past.”
France requested an “urgent meeting” with the UN Security Council after French President Emmanuel Macron called the reported slave auctions “a crime against humanity.” According to CNN, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France “will advocate for international sanctions against Libya if its justice system fails to act.”
Rwanda offered refuge to nearly 30,000 captive African migrants in Libya.
“Rwanda, like the rest of the world, was horrified by the images of the tragedy currently unfolding in Libya, where African men, women and children who were on the road to exile, have been held and turned into slaves,” the Rwandan foreign ministry said in a statement. “Given Rwanda’s political philosophy and our own history, we cannot remain silent when human beings are being mistreated and auctioned off like cattle. The Government and people of Rwanda stand in solidarity with our African brothers and sisters still held in captivity. Rwanda may not be able to welcome everyone but our door is wide open.”
President Trump accused CNN of “fake news” amid reports about Libya, prompting broadcaster Libya 218 to question the credibility of the slave auction clip first shared by CNN.
“Here the possibility arises that the channel has published the report of slavery in Libya to secure an as yet hidden political objective,” they suggested. Libyan authorities later announced an investigation into the allegations of CNN’s report, and possibly CNN itself.
More than 200 migrants stranded in Libya were returned to their home country, according to Nigerian officials. Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron prepared to meet with European leaders and their African counterparts, who all have planned to attend a two-day summit in The Ivory Coast capital of Abidjan. The Libya slave auctions were expected to be discussed some time within those two days.