The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution urging tougher action to crack down on human trafficking worldwide just days after a video showed young men being auctioned off as slaves in Libya.

Migrants arrive at a naval base after they were rescued by Libyan Navy, in Tripoli, Libya November 4, 2017.
Migrants arrive at a naval base after they were rescued by Libyan Navy, in Tripoli, Libya November 4, 2017. (Reuters)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was horrified by video footage showing migrants being sold as slaves in Libya and that these auctions should be investigated as possible crimes against humanity.

US television network CNN aired the footage last week of an apparent live auction in Libya where black men were presented to North African buyers as potential farmhands and sold off for as little as $400.

"Slavery has no place in our world and these actions are among the most egregious abuses of human rights and may amount to crimes against humanity," Guterres told reporters on Monday.

"I am horrified at news reports and video footage showing African migrants in Libya reportedly being sold as slaves," he said, adding: "I abhor these appalling acts."

Guterres called on "all competent authorities" to investigate the slave auctions without delay, adding that he had asked the "relevant United Nations actors to actively pursue this matter."

And the UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution urging tougher action to crack down on human trafficking and modern slavery worldwide

The resolution called on countries to adopt anti-trafficking laws, ramp up efforts to investigate and dismantle criminal networks and provide greater support for survivors of slavery.

Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Metig said his UN-backed Government of National Accord would investigate the allegations, in a statement posted Sunday on the Facebook page of the GNA's press office.

Guterres wants Libyan authorities as well as the International Criminal Court, which has a mandate to open war crimes investigations in Libya, to look into the slave auctions, said UN spokesman Farhan Haq.

TRT World's Gladys Njoroge Morgan has more. 

African anger

The UN chief has mobilized the UN high commission for human rights, his envoy in Libya Ghassan Salame, the UN office for drugs and crime, which has responsibility for human trafficking, and the International Organization for Migration, to take action, said Haq.

The images have triggered outrage from African leaders and calls for an inquiry.

Guinean President Alpha Conde, who is also chairman of the African Union, on Friday called for an inquiry and prosecutions relating to what he termed a "despicable trade... from another era."

Burkina Faso recalled its ambassador to Tripoli after expressing "shock" at the images, said Foreign Minister Alpha Barry.

President Roch Marc Christian Kabore has demanded information from Libya about the fate of some 30 Burkinabe migrants detained in the camps, said Barry. 

Senegal's government expressed "outrage at the sale of Sub-Saharan African migrants on Libyan soil" that constituted a "blight on the conscience of humanity."

Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou said the issue had made him "deeply angry" and urged Libyan authorities and international organizations to do "everything possible to stop this practice."

Six years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is still a lawless state where armed groups compete for land and resources and people-smuggling networks operate with impunity.

"People are rightfully outraged, but don't hold your breath that anything real is going to happen," Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher Hanan Salah said.

At least 20,000 migrants are being detained in Libya, which is the main gateway for Africans to reach Europe, according to the IOM.