Tripoli, 20 March 2013:
The New York-based human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) has described the treatment of people from Tawargha . . .[restrict]a “crime against humanity” and has called on the UN Security Council to condemn it.
It had demanded the Libyan government to take urgent steps to stop “serious and ongoing human rights violations against Tawerghans”, who it says are widely viewed as having supported Muammar Qaddafi during the 2011 revolution. It also wants the Security Council to demand that the government report within three month on how it is fulfilling its responsibility to protect its population “from mass atrocities”.
Additionally, it wants the Council to impose sanctions against Libyan officials who ordered crimes against the Tawerghans or did nothing to stop them. Many Tawerghans, it said, had been captured and killed by militias since the revolution.
“The forced displacement of roughly 40,000 people, arbitrary detentions, torture and killings are widespread, systematic and sufficiently organized to be crimes against humanity and should be condemned by the United Nations Security Council,” HRW said in a statement issued today, Wednesday.
It added that newly released satellite imagery analysis showed the systematic destruction of large swaths of the town by arson and targeted demolitions after the fighting there had stopped in mid-2011, in an apparent attempt to prevent Tawerghans from returning home.
The town which was used as a Qaddafi strategic support base in the siege of Misrata during the revolution was bombed by NATO forces. However, its systematic destruction largely took place during August 2011 when the population fled.
“Successive governments in Tripoli and local authorities in Misrata have failed to stop the ongoing persecution of an entire community and the destruction of the town,” said Fred Abrahams, special advisor at Human Rights Watch. “This leaves a dark stain on the reputation of a new Libya that claims to respect human rights.”
Armed groups from Misrata were responsible for most of the abuses, said HRW – a claim that HRW made last year and which Misrata officials have rejected.
“These groups accuse Tawerghans of having fought with or supported pro-Qaddafi forces during the 2011 conflict, and of committing war crimes in Misrata. The Libyan government and Misrata authorities have been unable to rein in these abusive armed groups.?Militia commanders and senior officials in Misrata could be held criminally responsible by domestic and international courts, including the International Criminal Court in The Hague, for ordering these crimes, or for failing to prevent them or to punish the attackers.”
It pointed out that in her last report to the UN Security Council in November 2012, the ICC chief prosecutor said her office was continuing to collect information about allegations of “killings, looting, property destruction, and forced displacement by Misrata militias” of Tawerghans to determine whether a new case should address these allegations.
“The Libyan authorities should also investigate individual Tawerghans accused of committing serious crimes during the 2011 conflict,” it said, “including alleged rapes and unlawful killings in Misrata and, if there is evidence of a crime, prosecute them to the full extent of the law.”
HRW also focused its attack on those that states that had supported the revolution, accusing them of double standards. “Foreign governments that intervened militarily in Libya under a UN Security Council resolution to protect civilians forcefully condemned violations by the Gaddafi government but have failed to challenge effectively the ongoing abuses against Tawerghans and others”, it said.
HRW called on the government and the authorities in Misrata “including militia commanders” to condemn attacks against Tawerghans and other displaced communities and to allow the voluntary return of people who wish to go home.
“The authorities should charge or release detainees based on the evidence, investigate allegations of torture and abuse of Tawerghan detainees, and investigate the widespread arson and property destruction.”
HRW has regularly alleged that Misrata-based militias are responsible for human rights crimes against the Tawerghans and other supporters of the Qaddafi regime, as have other organisations, including Amnesty International and the Libyan human rights defence group Lawyers for Justice in Libya.
When it voted to extend the mandate of the UN Special Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) last week, the UN Security Council specifically called on Libya to protect human rights, to comply with international human rights law and to hold accountable anyone responsible for serious violations of international human rights law.
At his press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, said that Libyans had to respect other’s people’s rights.
Three weeks ago Deputy Prime Minister Awad Barasi said that the government intended to ensure that people who fled their homes during or after the revolution, or were driven out, can return home.
The full text of the HRW report is here. [/restrict]