Libyan militia manning a checkpoint with heavy weapons, north of Tripoli. PHOTO/ARCHIVE/EPA/STRINGER
Libyan militia manning a checkpoint with heavy weapons, north of Tripoli. PHOTO/ARCHIVE/EPA/STRINGER

Human Rights Watch has said in its World Report 2019 that civilians, both migrants and locals, are suffering threats and violence from militias in Libya.

Armed groups continue to maintain a stranglehold on Libya while resident civilians, internally displaced persons and migrants are paying the price in the country, Human Rights Watch said in its World Report 2019 released on Thursday. The organization has called on Libyan authorities to "prioritize justice sector reform and establishing accountability, particularly for members of armed groups."

'Militias have been terrorizing both Libyans and migrants' 

"Seven years after the end of the 2011 revolution in Libya that ended the rule of the strongman Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has two competing governments that have been unable to reconcile. They contest control over territory, institutions and resources, while armed groups linked with them unlawfully kill, forcibly disappear, torture, and arbitrarily detain people and have forcibly displaced thousands. Government-aligned forces and militias have kept thousands of migrants and asylum-seekers in detention centers where conditions are inhumane and physical abuse is routine," the statement issued by HRW said. 

"Militias have been terrorizing both Libyans and migrants while no authority dares stand up to them and hold them to account," said Hanan Salah, senior Libya researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Until this changes, prospects remain dim for holding free and fair elections." 

Conflict hindering institutions 

In the 674-page World Report 2019, its 29th edition, Human Rights Watch reviewed human rights practices in more than 100 countries. 

''Protracted armed conflicts have hobbled key institutions in Libya, such as the judiciary, which functions only partially due to threats, harassment and attacks against judges, lawyers and prosecutors by militias. Where courts function, there are serious due process violations,'' the statement noted. 

''Despite a mandate to investigate war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Libya since 2011, the International Criminal Court has only issued one arrest warrant since 2011,'' it continued. ''As a result of the conflicts, 200,000 people remain internally displaced. 

Thousands of families who fled clashes in Benghazi since 2014, and armed confrontations in Derna since May 2018 are unable to return to their homes or to reclaim their properties and livelihoods for fear of reprisals by LNA-linked groups who accuse them of supporting terrorism,'' it said. 

''Although the extremist group Islamic State (ISIS) has controlled no territory in Libya since its ouster from Sirte in December 2016, it staged several deadly attacks that targeted civilians,'' it stressed.

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