Libya: 'Pro-Gaddafi' Tawargha people driven out of ghost town by lawless militias - New briefing
Two years since the end of the conflict in Libya, the entire population of a 'pro-Gaddafi' town near Misratah is a ghost town, with all of its 40,000 inhabitants driven out by militia groups.
The Tawarghas, ethnic black Libyans, have been driven out of their home town - also called Tawargha - by armed groups from Misratah who have accused them of supporting the former government of Colonel Gaddafi. For months after the 2011 conflict, the Tawarghas were hunted by militias and suffered arbitrary arrests, torture and killings.
A new Amnesty International briefing - 'Barred from their Homes', published on the second anniversary (23 October) of the end of the conflict in Libya - highlights the ongoing discrimination, abductions and arbitrary detention of the Tawargha. Militia members have threatened to stop any future attempt by the Tawargha to return to their homes.
Meanwhile, more than 1,300 Tawarghas are estimated to be missing, detained or subjected to enforced disappearances, mainly in Misratah. Most were seized by militias and have been subjected to torture - including electric shocks, whipping, and beatings with metal bars.
Hundreds of Tawargha detainees, including children, have also been held in state prisons for more than two years, without charge or trial, in poor detention conditions, and without adequate medical care or regular family visits. In al Wahda prison in Misratah, Amnesty met nine children who have been held without charge since they were apprehended in 2011. Family members of detained Tawarghas fear reprisal attacks each time they go to Misratah.
In total around 65,000 people are internally displaced across Libya, not just Tawarghas but members of the Mashashya tribe from the Nafusa Mountains, residents of Sirte and Bani Walid, and Tuaregs from Ghadames.
'Two years after the conflict, Tawarghas and other displaced communities are still waiting for justice and effective reparations for the abuses they have suffered. Many continue to face discrimination and live in under-resourced camps with no solution in sight.
'It is unthinkable that the victims of abuses have been asked to relinquish their right to safe return, while the militias and others threatening them have gone unchallenged.
'The demands of Misratah’s residents for accountability for war crimes in their city are justified, but justice cannot be selective and a whole community cannot be collectively punished.
'All those being held without charge must be released or charged with a recognisable criminal offence. The detention of children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest period of time.'
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director
Libya is currently facing the worst political and security crisis since the 2011 conflict. The rule of law has been undermined amid widespread lawlessness, arbitrary detentions, abductions and attacks on government institutions by state-affiliated militias. Despite these challenges, Amnesty is insisting the Libyan authorities have a responsibility to ensure the protection of internally-displaced communities who are among those most at risk.
Last month, Libya’s General National Congress agreed in principle to a Law on Transitional Justice that includes a set of measures to achieve truth, accountability and reparations for victims of human rights violations perpetrated during Gaddafi’s rule and since. The draft law, which is pending a final vote, establishes a Fact-Finding and Reconciliation Commission tasked, among other things, with addressing the situation of internally-displaced persons without discrimination.
'The adoption of this law could be the first real step towards justice for Tawarghas and other displaced communities. Once the law is adopted, the authorities must ensure that the Commission is given the necessary resources and protection to conduct its work impartially, free from threats, public pressure and militia attack.'
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui