Both sides of Libyan conflict committing war crimes: Amnesty

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Published Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pro-government and rebel militias vying for control of western Libya are committing war crimes including torturing detainees and targeting civilians, Amnesty International said Thursday.

Libya is being rocked by fighting between militias in the west and in second city Benghazi, where troops are trying to dislodge Islamists who control most of what was the cradle of the Nato-backed campaign that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Amnesty said militias in the west showed "an utter disregard" for civilian casualties and accused them of indiscriminately lobbing artillery fire into crowded civilian neighborhoods, damaging homes and hospitals.

"In today's Libya, the rule of the gun has taken hold," said Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa program.

"Armed groups and militias are running amok, launching indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas and committing widespread abuses, including war crimes, with complete impunity."

Since the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya’s uprising against Gaddafi, the authorities in the North African nation have failed to stamp their authority on the all the country’s components.

Earlier this month, the United Nations called for a truce between government-backed forces and Islamist militias in Benghazi and in western Libya, but fighting continues unabated.

Amnesty said members of Fajr Libya – an Islamist-led militia alliance that seized Tripoli at the end of August – and pro-government groups from the western city of Zintan had both fired on civilian areas and engaged in tit-for-tat abductions during skirmishes since July.

"Fighters on all sides in this conflict have fired GRAD rockets and artillery in crowded civilian neighborhoods," Sahraoui said.

Amnesty also listed cases of armed groups abducting and torturing "scores of civilians" based on their place of origin or perceived political affiliation.

Alleged torture included a truck driver who was abducted from the town of Zawiya, beaten with a metal bar and given electric shocks before being doused in petrol and set alight.

In another case, a wounded fighter was kidnapped while being transferred to Tunisia for medical treatment and "shot with a gun most likely to the back of the head," Amnesty said.

It called on armed groups to cease abductions and civilian targeting and warned that militia leaders could eventually be tried for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

"In the absence of accountability, the human rights situation in Libya is likely to continue its downward spiral," Sahraoui said.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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