This week has seen the usual trend of small-scale incidents of violence across the country, whether directed at the Police or Supreme Security Committee (SSC) and continuing frictions within the oil and gas sector with squabbles over the right to guard such lucrative assets and a wider lack of employment opportunities in the sector. This sits within the general security situation of targeted killings in the east of the country, a security void resulting in lawlessness in central Libya, wider generalised clashes between tribes and factions overlaid with the current porous borders.
Tension remains high in Tripoli around the General National Congress (GNC) as anti-Gaddafi forces seek to pressure GNC members to pass the Political Isolation Bill. On Sunday, former rebel fighters besieged the Prime Minister’s office calling for him to step down in accordance with this law as he served as a diplomat under Gadaffi’s regime. This is part of an ongoing campaign of intimidation and protest in support of this controversial piece of legislation.
A positive move for social justice this week was the release from detention of a number of people accused of being members of Gadaffi’s forces. They are from across Libya and have been detained since the Revolution but as a result of pressure from civil society groups have been released for lack of evidence. However in a blow to the Libyan Human Rights campaign, the Chairman of Libya’s Human Rights Committee, Hassan El Amin resigned this week claiming that militias were threatening to kill him after he criticized their unchecked power. El Amin fled to London following his comments on Libyan television that the balance of power lies with the militias on the streets.
Externally, on the 19th March the Egyptians in Cairo arrested a group of former Gaddafi regime loyalists including Ahmed Qaddaf al-Dam, who was a close aide and cousin of the former dictator. The arrests following a house siege and preliminary negotiations with Egyptian authorities have led to the arrival of a Libyan delegation in Cairo to arrange their handover.
Tripolitania and Tripoli
On 20th March there was an attack on the Tripoli Central Police Station by unknown gunmen. It is reported that the Police station chief was shot in the attack.
A report was released this week by Human Rights Watch that calls on the Libyan Government to take ‘urgent steps to stop serious and ongoing human rights violations against inhabitants of the town of Tawergha,’and further stated that the ‘forced displacement of roughly 40,000 people, arbitrary detentions, torture, and killings are widespread, systematic, and sufficiently organized to be crimes against humanity.’ The town of Tawergha was an enclave of pro-Gadaffi support that was used as the staging point for the siege of Misrata during the Revolution. Following the breaking of the siege the Misratans overran the town and exacted their revenge resulting in its 40,000 inhabitants being forced to flee. Many remain internally displaced and others continue to be detained without trial.
Following the recent influx of militia into Tripoli and the besieging of the Prime Minister’s office, the security around the Prime Minister’s convoy has been stepped up.
Gulf of Sidra, Cyrenaica and Benghazi
On 20th March clashes occurred in the Ghani oilfield between the incumbent guard force provided from the Jazira Brigade and members of the Jawdran Brigade. The oilfield, in the western Sirte Basin, is some 50 km north of the Zella oasis, and is operated by Harouge Oil, which is a joint venture between the National Oil Corporation and Petro-Canada. This is merely the latest in a number of such clashes over who should control the security of Libya’s oilfields with militias being incorporated to supplement an undermanned and inadequate Petroleum Facilities Guard.
Separately last week’s protests at Waha Oil’s Gialo 59 field are continuing without resolution.
In towns such as Sirte and Darna, widespread punishment lashings which have not been used for decades in Libya are being carried out on the streets. Locals claim that the lashings are carried out by Islamist militants from the Ansar Al-Shari’a group who are exploiting the security void and absence of authority to implement their own measures.