Amnesty International Warns Libyan Militias “Out of Control”

The global advocacy group says militias are subjecting many to torture, rape and other abuses.

Posted: 02/16/2012 12:13 PM EST

One year after Libya’s uprising, armed militias are freely roaming throughout the country, committing widespread human rights abuses and serving as de facto leaders, says a new report by human rights watchdog Amnesty International.


“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, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International.


The report, Militias Threaten Hopes for New Libya, documents what the group calls “widespread and serious abuses” being perpetrated by Libyan militias, mainly against Gadhafi loyalists and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. According to Amnesty, many have reported unlawful detentions, torture and deaths.


The group also reports that many detainees confessed to rapes, killings and other crimes they had not committed, simply to end the torture. The organization noted that Libyan authorities have not yet taken any action against the militias for their crimes, which include the forcible displacement of entire communities — a crime under international law.

“The blanket impunity afforded to militias is sending the message that such abuses are tolerated and is contributing to making such practices accepted practice. Individuals responsible for abuses must be held to account for their actions and removed from positions that would allow them to repeat such abuses.” said Rovera.

Amnesty International is not the only organization to blow the whistle on Libyan abuses. Last month, medical aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières stopped work in Libya’s Misrata detention centers because, they say, detainees are being routinely tortured and denied medical care. The doctors reported that patients from the center were increasingly suffering from injuries caused by torture during interrogation sessions and that several of the patients returned to the same centers and were tortured again.

In efforts to topple the authority of former leader Moammar Gadhafi, many small groups were given arms in order to assist the loosely organized resistance. However, after Gadhafi’s defeat the country’s interim government, the National Transitional Council, is having a hard time getting those groups to hand in their weapons and submit to a national authority.

Last month, the NTC lost control of former Gadhafi stronghold Bani Walid, after locals staged an armed revolt — something Moammar Gadhafi’s son Saadi warned there would be more of in the future.

"First of all, it is not going to be an uprising limited to some areas. It will cover all the regions of the Jamahiriya and this uprising does exist and I am following and witnessing this as it grows bigger by the day," he said, according to Reuters.

Although Saadi is currently on house arrest in neighboring Niger, he claims that he has maintained contact with the army, the militias, the transitional government and other members of the Gadhafi family.

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(Photo:  REUTERS/Anis Mili)

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