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Hundreds of armed militias that fought against Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s repressive regime now pose the greatest threat to human rights in Libya.

‘The authorities have failed to break the stranglehold of the militias’
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Libya Researcher

In 2012, our researchers visited the country and found evidence of a catalogue of abuses, including arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, unlawful killings and forcible displacement. All are casting a shadow over post-revolution Libya.

Tortured to death

Torture is rife in Libya. It is carried out not just by military and security entities but also armed militia groups operating outside of legal frameworks.

When our researchers visited 11 detention facilities in central and western Libya used by various militias, there was only one facility in which detainees did not report torture and ill treatment. In ten, detainees showed us injuries resulting from recent abuse.

At least eleven people detained by militias have been tortured to death.

So far, not one person has been brought to justice for these human rights violations. There have been no effective investigations into cases of torture and deaths in custody.  

A government struggling for control

During their visit, our researchers found that hundreds of armed militias were acting above the law.

Many militia members are refusing to disarm or join the national army or police force. The Ministry of Interior told us that since coming to power it has been able to dismantle just four militias in Tripoli - a tiny proportion of the total number.

Targeted attacks leave Libyan's in fear

Militias have been targeting black Libyans and Sub-Saharan Africans, as well as forcibly displacing entire communities deemed loyal to the previous government.

The authorities have failed to break the stranglehold of the militias on Libyan security, and these targeted attacks have been allowed to continue - with dramatic consequences for the people of Libya, bearing the brunt of Militias’ actions.

Communities displaced – the Tawarghas’ story

In August 2011 30,000 men, women and children were driven out of their homes in the town of Tawargha by opposition fighters from Misratah. The fighters chased out families, burned down homes and destroyed its infrastructure. Today, Tawargha is a ghost town. Its people are scattered across Libya.

And the persecution didn't stop there. Even after they fled, hundreds of Tawarghas were hunted down in camps, homes, checkpoints and even hospitals. They were captured and detained by the Misratah militias. Some Tawarghas died in detention, tortured to death by their captors.

Why has this community been targeted so violently? Because the opposition fighters believed the Tawarghas had supported Gaddafi’s government forces during the Libyan uprising. Misratah militias have vowed that the people of Tawargha will never be able to return. The town is being wiped off the map.