Libya mired in 'culture of impunity'

Libya mired in 'culture of impunity'
From Al Jazeera - August 12, 2017

A Libyan human rights organisation has accused the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by General Khalifa Haftar and its militia supporters in Benghazi, responsible for acts that amount to "crimes against humanity".

In a report calling on the international community to intervene, Human Rights Solidarity said a "mass killing" that claimed six lives last week was the third of its kind since Haftar took control of the city last month.

The LNA and other armed groups loyal to Haftar are operating under the mantra of "Operation Dignity", which they claim is a fight against "terrorism".

Libya has been engulfed in a civil war since a 2011 popular uprising ended Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule. Rival governments, including the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA),have been fighting for control over the country.

Al Jazeera spoke with Ahmed el-Gasir, a senior Libya researcher with Human Rights Solidarity, who said that Libya's culture of impunity will take years to abolish.

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Al Jazeera: The report asserts that there is a "culture of impunity" in Libya. Why is that?

Ahmed el-Gasir: The culture of impunity prevalent in Libya is a result of the inability of judicial and law enforcement authorities to function in the country. Perpetrators of grave violations, such as extrajudicial killings and torture, document their crimes, videos and photos, and broadcast them without fearing accountability.

Since Gaddafi's regime ended, apart from the trials of ex-regime members and associates, there were no trials carried out for any of the serious crimes committed by any party.

The inability and failure of these authorities to operate is mainly caused by the spread of weapons, the presence of hundreds of militias and political chaos in Libya, with several entities claiming "legitimacy".

Al Jazeera: Why have the Libyan authorities and the various sides involved been unable to protect civilians?

Gasir: The central authority, which is the government, is weak. It does not have the power to enforce rule of law. The internationally recognised government and the unrecognised governments, all have no forces that operate under their control, which has been the case with all transitional authorities since 2011.

They rely on armed militias, who have their own allegiances and agendas, to carry out security and military tasks. On paper, the militias operate as part of the Ministry of Interior, but in reality, they follow their own chain of command.

We have to remember that even before the revolution, law enforcement agencies and various police departments were neglected by the previous regime. The security apparatus of the regime was more organised, better trained and had more resources to protect the regime. When the regime collapsed, so did the security apparatus, leaving behind a security vacuum where it was too dangerous for law enforcement units to operate.

Al Jazeera: What can the international community do to ensure the safety of civilians in Benghazi and Libya as a whole?

Gasir: To close the "impunity gap", the international community - including the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the European Union and the International Criminal Court (ICC) - needs to act.


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