“The militias threaten the hopes of Libya,” says a report published today by Amnesty International that provides further evidence of the extreme insecurity that has followed the fall of the Gaddafi regime with a government that fails to effectively control the militias. The report found evidence of systematic abuses committed in detention centers where thousands of prisoners are locked up, in many cases unrelated to accusations that they face.
The cases of prisoners killed while in prison, even in recent weeks, are 12 according to the non-governmental organization based in London. Thousands of cases of people being tortured, abused or discriminated against and forced to flee, often only on the basis of skin color or tribe, have been reported.
The case of the inhabitants of Tawergha, a city not far from Misurata Libya and inhabited mainly by descendants of distant sub-Saharan Africa (the city was a crossroads of trade in slaves), is well known. Tawergha was sacked in the first months of the year, the inhabitants were forced to flee; many men are under arrest, forced to sign false confessions like the others, stresses the document.
The situation for sub-Saharan Africans is also of concern. Before they were arrested because they were accused of being mercenaries for Muammar Gaddafi; now increasingly they are also being arrested for extortion. Somalis, Sudanese, and anyone with dark skin cannot move freely when not running the risk of being arrested at a checkpoint and sent to the detention center.
Meanwhile, historic rivalries between tribes are being resolved in vendettas in favor of those who prevailed in bringing about the downfall of the regime. The militias of the Nafusa mountains or Zintan have forced members of the neighboring Mshashiya tribes to flee, attacking them. It is easy to run into graffiti in Misrata warning those who fled during the war not to go back because they would be regarded as traitors and would pay the consequences.
The element that clearly emerges is that the ratio of absolute impunity for armed militias entirely outside the control of the Transitional Authority. Impunity that results in human rights abuses and violations against thousands of prisoners, the numbers of which can only be estimated.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has counted 8500 in 60 detention centers. According to government figures there are 2,400 in facilities operated by the judicial authorities. But thousands are being held in military bases, in the centers of the security forces, in facilities controlled by militias operating outside the law.