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Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya
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Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity.

Libya has been in a state of almost constant conflict since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi three years ago, and the fighting continues. Rival governments try to control the east and west of the country. But militias hold much of the real power, representing former Gadhafi supporters, Islamists and other groups.

In a new report focusing on Tripoli and the west, Amnesty International condemns all parties for widespread human rights abuses and violations of international law.

“We’ve seen three years where instead of investigating crimes, instead of investigating human rights violations, having a sort of transitional justice process, the authorities, the successive governments were actually unable to deal with that situation,” said researcher Magdalena Mughrabi who wrote the report.

Mughrabi says human rights deteriorated through three years of various governments empowering militias in an effort to bring them into the mainstream, but not being able to control them or to hold them accountable for their actions.

And the political situation has deteriorated, too. The Libyan Supreme Court invalidated the election of the latest parliament, which still claims power from a remote town in the east, while militia commander and former Gadhafi-era general Khalifa Hafter has installed another government in Tripoli.

That means more fighting and more suffering for the Libyan people are ahead, says Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding.

“It means that there is still a struggle for power within the country," said Doyle. "There is no legitimate authority. It means there’s going to be a further conflict now to assert who actually has the legitimacy to run the country.”

Doyle says some Libyans want another strongman, like Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, while a vocal but small minority see the Islamic State group as a model.

Meanwhile, Libyans continue to flee toward Europe, creating another humanitarian crisis.

“If we do not address the situation in Libya, we are going to see more of that, and we are going to see increased radicalization and extremism on the southern borders of Europe,” said Doyle.

The 2011 revolution created great hope for oil-rich and relatively well-educated Libya. Now, Doyle says the rival groups need a foreign mediator, and there is none they would all trust.

So Amnesty International is calling directly on militia commanders to end the abuses.

“There are certain things that not only can be done but must be done by the armed groups because otherwise they can be liable to prosecution by the International Criminal Court,” said Mughrabi.

But that call is not likely to have much impact on Libyan commanders accustomed to impunity, who believe they are fighting an all-or-nothing battle for the future of their country.