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Libya: The Authorities have a Responsibility to Protect the Population
19 November 2013
Violence broke out when militia from the city of Misrata opened fire on peaceful protesters who were marching on their brigade quarters, demanding their departure from the city. Libyan news agencies report that dozens of people were killed in the clashes that followed – the deadliest street fighting in Tripoli since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Misrata gunmen and rival militias clashed again on Saturday to the east of the capital killing one, bringing the number of casualties to at least 41. They retreated with seized vehicles, weapons and ammunition. 

This acute deterioration of the security situation in the Libyan capital illustrates the government’s incapacity to regain control over armed groups and militias, which have continued to grow since the fall of the former regime in 2011. FIDH had warned Libyan authorities in January 2012 that "disarming militias and reintegrating their members into society [was] crucial and [was] the main challenge for the transition government" . 

(…) Authorities must protect protesters from violent attacks and ensure that those responsible are held to account before an independent judiciary. 

Interim authorities have lost the trust of the population, especially as concerns the militias. Therefore FIDH recommends that the Libyan authorities work more closely with civil society organisations to establish a mediation unit to serve as a main contact with armed groups in order to accelerate their demobilisation. 

Further, wide-spread tensions have caused a disconnect between Tripoli and the Eastern part of the country. This has left the population in that region feeling abandoned and frustrated, and has resulted in Benghazi’s unilateral declaration of autonomy. 

Disarmament and decentralisation are pre-requisites to return to peace and to achieve a truly democratic transition. Those who perpetrate extrajudicial killings must be held accountable, in compliance with international human rights standards. Further, the government must ensure that pluralism and equal rights are fully guaranteed to all, including ethnic minorities, and that no areas of the country are excluded.
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