Libya Peace Talks Underway While Thousands Flee the Lawless State
19:42 12.08.2015 (updated 19:45 12.08.2015)
The consequences of the Arab Spring and the uprising of Islamic State along with the overthrow of Libya’s leader Colonel Gaddafi are ricocheting across the world and landing on Europe’s doorstep - where key peace talks aimed at stabilizing Libya are taking place in Geneva.
Stories emerge with chilling frequency about the number of migrants that need rescuing from Mediterranean waters – with many drowning in the process. More than 2,000 people are believed to have died so far this year making the deadly journey on unseaworthy boats.
Almost 70 people drowned yesterday on international waters shortly after setting sail from Libya to Italy on a rubber boat. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says the majority of the people on board were from Sub-Saharan Africa.
Ninety percent of the boats begin the perilous crossing in Libya where in 2011 NATO military intervention removed the country’s leader Colonel Gaddafi from power.
Libya is now described as 'lawless' and 'failed', with the overthrow of Gaddafi leaving only chaos in the region. Weapons once used by Gaddafi’s forces are now in the hands of Islamic State rebel groups.
Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director says: “The ghastly conditions for migrants, coupled with spiraling lawlessness and armed conflicts raging within the country, make clear just how dangerous life in Libya is today.
"With no legal avenues to escape and seek safety, they are forced to place their lives in the hands of smugglers who callously extort, abuse and attack them."
"The international community has stood and watched as Libya has descended into chaos since the 2011 NATO military campaign ended, effectively allowing militias and armed groups to run amok."
According to Luther, "world leaders have a responsibility and must be prepared to face the consequences, which include greater levels of refugees and migrants fleeing conflict and rampant abuse in Libya".
A new report commissioned by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders suggests that Islamic armed groups keep so called black lists of targets containing the names of persons who promote democratic ideals and defend human rights and gender equality — values that directly oppose those promoted by Islamic State fighters.
The report, published by the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) says that of the judicial institutions that do exist in Libya, hold allegiances "to various tribes, warlords, and not-State actors".
"These groups have gone on to replace State institutions by infiltrating them and rendering them dysfunctional," the report says.
According to Karim Lahidji, FIDH President:
"Human rights defenders [in Libya] are forced to cease their activities or go into exile in order to stay alive. However, even in exile, most Libyan human rights defenders face a very precarious situation."
Meanwhile, a new round of peace talks is underway in Geneva to deal with the political crisis in Libya. Representatives of the Islamic backed Tripoli parliament, the General National Congress are joined by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives.
Both boast of their own institutions and military capabilities.
"We are starting a new round of talks with a very clear agenda. This will be on the one hand the 'annexes' and on the other hand the unity government," Bernardino Leon, special representative and head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), said in a press conference in UN at Geneva.
"What Libya is facing now is deeper chaos and division of the country," warned Leon. "So I hope all the Libyan actors will be wise to avoid this scenario, to expedite the talks and to reach an agreement very soon."
But the future of Libya’s internationally recognized government remains uncertain amid the second round of peace talks. Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani announced his resignation during an emotional live television appearance, in which he faced a barrage of questions from angry citizens.
Benghazi, Libya’s biggest city in the east of the country, is the focus of a daily way between pro-and anti-government forces vying for control.
Thani’s government has been forced to operate from Tobruk, a small city near the border with Egypt after Islamic State militia captures the Tripoli last year.
Meanwhile, around 70 migrants remain unaccounted for in waters off the Libyan coast after a recent rescue operation only managed to save 54 people. Survivors say the boat, which deflated soon after it set sail from Libya was carrying around 120 migrants on board.
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