Reining in the myriad armed groups that formed in 2011 to fight Gaddafi’s forces remains a pressing and essential task, Human Rights Watch said. These groups have refused to give up their weapons and act as a law unto themselves, and some are committing serious crimes, such as unlawful detentions and torture.
Libya’s security forces remain weak and unable to police much of the country, despite some government efforts. Lawlessness is particularly acute in the East and South, where armed militias and criminal groups act with impunity. These groups have attacked, among others, foreign diplomatic missions as well as representatives of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
The government acknowledges that about 8,000 people are being detained across Libya, but only about 5,600 detainees, are in facilities controlled to some degree by the military or the Interior and Justice ministries. Several thousand others are held illegally by various militias. All detainees should be brought under government control, given access to lawyers, and taken promptly before a judge, Human Rights Watch said.
Deaths in detention occurred during 2012 of people held in facilities run by both armed militias and various Supreme Security Committees, which operate nominally under the Interior Ministry. The exact number of cases is not known.
“The militias still holding detainees need to know that their conduct is a clear violation of Libyan law and they can be held accountable,” Stork said. “In addition, the UN Security Council has given the International Criminal Court ongoing jurisdiction in Libya to investigate serious crimes by all parties.”
The government should urgently get all prosecutors’ offices and courts up and running so all crimes can be promptly and fairly investigated and prosecuted, Human Rights Watch said.
Accountability for serious crimes by members of the former Gaddafi government is essential, Human Rights Watch said. But justice can only be achieved if the defendants receive fair trials that respect international best practice.