Libya's fledging government is threatened by armed militias whose lawless behaviour risks jeopardising the country's stability and security, Amnesty International says. Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
16 Feb 2012
A year after the first demonstrations against Col Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year dictatorship, thousands of Libyans continue to suffer from the threat of violence and misrule, with militias perpetrating widespread human rights abuses.
According to Amnesty, at least 12 people have been tortured to death in rebel prisons since September. Despite the overthrow of the regime, Libya is still ruled by the gun.
"Militias in Libya are largely out of control and the blanket impunity they enjoy only encourages further abuses and perpetuates instability and insecurity," said Donatella Rovera, a researcher for the human rights group.
"A year ago Libyans risked their lives to demand justice. Today their hopes are being jeopardised by lawless armed militias who trample human rights with impunity."
Inmates at 10 of 11 detention facilities run by the militias had been tortured, Amnesty said. Prisoners said they had been suspended with ropes and cables, beaten with plastic hoses and subjected to electric shocks.
Amnesty also accused the interim government of failing to investigate suspicious incidents, such as the deaths of 65 Gaddafi fighters whose bodies were dumped in a hotel.
The government formed from the National Transitional Council, which spearheaded the uprising against the regime, was also criticised for not intervening against the expulsion of 30,000 residents from the town of Tawargha by Misuratan fighters.
Activists from a range of human rights groups claim that armed gangs are responsible for daily atrocities. "The government should protect the rights of thousands of people who are held without formal charges or access to an attorney," said Sarah Leah Whitson, of Human Rights Watch.
Diplomats have applauded the Libyan government's efforts to prepare for elections but acknowledge that frustration with its failure to stamp its authority on the streets has grown. "There has been very slow progress in binding the various factions into a central government worthy of the name," said one Western official.
The danger that the country could fracture into zones run by militias rose this week after a group of 100 brigades from the west of the country formed a political front in opposition to the current leadership, with its fighters staging a show of force in Tripoli.