Tripoli, 28 June 2013:
The Libyan authorities have been urged by Human Rights Watch (HRW) to allow the displaced people of Tawergha . . .[restrict]to return safely to their homes.
The Tawerghan Town Council in exile postponed a planned return this month, the day before it was due to take place. The decision followed appeals from Prime Minister Ali Zeidan and Grand Mufti Sheikh Sadeq Al-Ghariani, as well as tribal leaders and the United Nations Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).
Despite the decision, some Tawerghans decided to proceed with the planned return on 25 June. A convoy of some 40 cars set off for Tawergha from Benghazi but this was turned back by local authorities at Ajdabiya, according to HRW.
There are around 35,000 Tawerghans living in refugee camps across the country, since fleeing their town in August 2011. They have been prevented from returning by Misratan militias, who accuse Tawerghans of fighting with pro-Qaddafi forces during the revolution and committing war crimes in Misrata.
HRW said it was understandable that individuals in Misrata may want justice for crimes committed against them by individuals. However, the human rights NGO pointed out that this did not give the Misratans the right to block the right of return of a displaced people to their homes.
“Widespread or systematic forced displacement carried out as a policy, as in this case, amounts to a crime against humanity,” said HRW.
“An entire community is being held hostage to crimes allegedly committed by a few,” said deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, Eric Goldstein. He added that the onus was now on the government: “to end this collective punishment by ensuring that Tawerghans can exercise their right finally to return to their homes.”