It’s good that Moammar Qaddafi is gone. But will the new cabinet dominated by defectors from his regime be a lot better? We’ll see. The latest report on human rights in “liberated” Libya is not reassuring.
Thousands of people, including women and children, are being illegally detained by rebel militias in Libya, according to a report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Many of the prisoners are suffering torture and systematic mistreatment while being held in private jails outside the control of the country’s new government.
The document, seen by The Independent, states that while political prisoners being held by the Gaddafi regime have been released, their places have been taken by up to 7,000 new “enemies of the state”, “disappeared” in a dysfunctional system, with no recourse to the law.
The report will come as uncomfortable reading for the Western governments, including Britain, which backed the campaign to oust Gaddafi. A UN resolution was secured in March in order to protect civilians from abuses by the regime, which was at the time mercilessly suppressing the uprising against the Gaddafi regime.
There was evidence, says the report by Ban Ki-moon, due to be presented to the Security Council, that both sides committed acts amounting war crimes in the bitter battle for Colonel Gaddafi’s hometown, Sirte. The Secretary-General who recently visited Libya, echoes the concern expressed by many world leaders over the killing of the former dictator by rebel fighters pointing out that Gaddafi was captured alive before being put to death.
The report also stresses that it is a matter of great praise that the country has been liberated after 42 years of totalitarian rule. The victorious opposition – which formed a new interim government this week – fully intends to follow a democratic path and introduce a functioning legal system, he says. The report is due to be circulated among members of the UN Security Council, and discussed next week.
However, Ban Ki-moon also presents a grim scenario of the growing power of the armed militias that control of the streets of many towns, including those of the capital, Tripoli, and the settling of internecine feuds through gun battles resulting in deaths and injuries.
Meanwhile the lawlessness has resulted in the vast majority of the police force not being able to return to work. In the few places where they have been back on duty under experienced officers, such as Tripoli, their role has been restricted largely to directing traffic.
Hopefully everything will work out well. But it isn’t clear that the Islamists who control many of those street militias are going to cheerfully accept their exclusion from the new government. If not, the civil war might not be over. Of course, from the West’s standpoint, it probably would be worse if they were included in the government.
Such are the benefits of President Obama’s “splendid little war”! Hopefully he’ll keep this experience in mind before plunging America into war elsewhere.
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