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UN Worries Over Libya Militias

January 26, 2012

United Nations officials say they are growing increasingly concerned over the activities of Libyan militias and people held in detention centers in the north African country.

The warning follows deadly clashes this week in Bani Walid, a former stronghold of ousted leader Muammar Qaddafi, and reports of suspected torture of prisoners.

UN Libya envoy Ian Martin told the Security Council on January 25 that the fighting between armed residents of the town and former revolutionaries has highlighted the challenge of reconciling the late leader's supporters and the rebels who brought down Qaddafi's regime last year.

"The former regime may have been toppled, but the harsh reality is that the Libyan people continue to have to live with its deep-rooted legacy: weak, at times absent state institutions, coupled with the long absence of political parties and civil society organizations, which render the country's transition more difficult," Martin said.

Martin said anti-Qaddafi militias were also responsible for fatal clashes in Tripoli and fighting in other towns this month.

Meanwhile, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said former revolutionary forces are believed to be holding some 8,500 prisoners in about 60 centers, and there have been reports of torture.

"The lack of [detainee] oversight by the central authorities creates an environment conducive to torture and ill treatment. My staff have received alarming reports that this is happening in places of detention they have visited," Pillay said.

Amnesty International on January 26 said several detainees have died in Libya amid what the group called "widespread torture and ill-treatment of suspected pro-Qaddafi fighters and loyalists."

The London-based group said the torture was being carried out by “officially recognized military and security entities, as well by a multitude of armed militias operating outside any legal framework."

In a separate statement, Doctors Without Borders said it had stopped work in detention centers in the northwestern city of Misrata because some patients were being brought in for care between interrogation sessions.

Libya's longtime leader was killed in his hometown of Sirte in October 2011 by forces who had been trying to topple him since February with the backing of Western and Arab countries.

But the National Transitional Council that now rules Libya has yet to succeed in consolidating its hold over the fractious militias that toppled the old regime.

compiled from agency reports

Source: libya_militias/24463826.html

Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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