Thursday, 23 February 2012

Militias remain outside central government control

The domestic situation is still far from secure. The Amnesty International reports on torture in Misrata prisons earlier this year hardened by mid-February into scarcely concealed charges of serious breaches of human rights. According to Amnesty, at least 12 individuals were tortured to death in prison in the last quarter of 2011, and no conclusive action to alter the situation was reported other than a name change for the guards running the makeshift prisons.

The militia who were involved in the management of the Misrata prison have continued to perpetrate abuse of inmates in direct contravention of National Transitional Council (NTC) orders and in flagrant violation of the human rights laws.

Since that time, the militias have become an increasing menace to the rule of law. In addition to keeping Saif al-Islam Qadhafi in confined quarters in Zintan, they are daily blocking the routes outside Tripoli and Benghazi, and are reportedly imposing illegal charges for safe passage. These unpopular militia activities impact on the lives of the urban population.

It would seem that the principal militias have now formalised an organisation which links about 300 groups, with a combined total of over 200,000 members. It is claimed by journalists recently in the region that the militias' objective is simply to oppose the NTC on key issues, undermining its status and ridiculing its efforts to implement constitutional change.

In practice the militias are frequently concerned with establishing authority on their home patch although those from Misrata and Zintan are often in conflict for more complex reasons. So far, the government has been completely unequal to the task of disarming this irregular and illegal military force. In their latest incarnation the militias have been acting as paramilitary units with little or no regard for the wishes of the central government.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2012 Menas Associates

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