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Libya militias holding thousands prisoner

22 January 2014, 08:16

Tripoli - Libya's militia-controlled detention centres are holding nearly 5 000 people without access to the justice system, and around 35 000 civilians still remain forcibly displaced as a result of the country's 2011 civil war, an international human rights group said on Tuesday, at a time the western-backed government is locked in power struggle with an Islamist-leaning parliament.

In its annual report, Human Rights Watch said the interim government had faced "multiple challenges" last year, such as dealing with "myriad armed groups" who are imposing their authority in parts of the country, people detained without trials, and authorities' inability to conduct proper investigations into a wave of assassinations and attacks that have rocked the country since the war.

The group said in its report that around 8 000 detainees remain in detention since the uprising-turned civil war that toppled long serving dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Of them, only 3 000 are in government custody, while the rest are held in militia-run prisons where abuses and deaths are widespread.

Since the fall of Gadhafi, Libya has had no functioning military or police, and it relies heavily on unruly militias in keeping law and order. Some groups of fighters however resist government authority and one has even taken control of the country's vital oil installations and ports in the east.

The rights violations come as a mostly Islamist bloc in parliament has made several unsuccessful attempts at dismissing Prime Minister Ali Zidan with no-confidence votes.

On Tuesday, The Muslim Brotherhood's political party announced that it is withdrawing its five ministers from Zidan's government. The move will further weaken his embattled government since it will be hard for him to fill the vacant positions without a now unlikely parliamentary endorsement.

Justice and Construction party leader Mohammed Sawan said in a statement that the ministers of electricity, youth, economy, oil and housing will leave their posts after "the devastating failure of the government in accomplishing what it promised to do."

The Western-backed Zidan faces opposition from Islamists from both the Brotherhood and another group of ultraconservative Salafis. Independents later joined the opposition amid the worsening security situation.

- AP


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