Amnesty urges Libya's GNU against 'legitimising' armed groups

Amnesty urges Libya's GNU against 'legitimising' armed groups
The call by Amnesty comes after Libya's new interim unity government proposed a bill that earmarked tens of millions of dollars of funds for the Internal Security Agency, whose composite brutal armed groups operate in eastern Libya.
3 min read
06 August, 2021
With Gaddafi-era security officers among their ranks, the ISA armed groups have been accused of reviving brutal tactics of oppression [Getty]

Amnesty International has urged Libya's interim Government of National Unity (GNU) against "legitimising" militias with a history of rights abuses after a budget was proposed that earmarked them tens of millions of dollars in funds.

Among the planned beneficiaries is Libya's Internal Security Agency (ISA), a notorious security and intelligence body composed of armed groups and operating in the strongholds of the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF), led by General Khalifa Haftar.

Yet to be approved by parliament, the proposal presented on Tuesday allocates 260 million LYD (57 million USD) to the ISA, as well as 2.5 billion LYD (550 million USD) to the LAAF.

In a press release on Friday, Amnesty said it had interviewed over dozen people and found that the ISA armed groups in various cities, including Benghazi and Sirte, had targeted individuals based on their tribal affiliations, as well as activists, journalist and critics of the LAAF and its allied groups.

With Gaddafi-era security officers among their ranks, the ISA armed groups have revived brutal tactics of oppression, noted Heba Morayef, Regional Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Regional Office.

"They have abducted, tortured and forcibly disappeared hundreds on the basis of their tribal affiliations or in reprisal for their opinions with the clear aim of crushing any criticism of those in power in eastern Libya," she said.

Libya had been divided into two rival entities competing for legitimacy in the west and east of the country since 2014, until the GNU was appointed in March 2021.

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But it has struggled to establish control over Libyan territory, with armed groups still controlling swathes of the country's east and south.

ISA armed groups began operating after the Haftar's LAAF seized control of the east. In 2017, the LAAF-allied House of Representatives ordered that ISA forces must be brought under the command of Haftar's forces.

The ISA armed groups operating under the de facto authority of LAAF effectively answer to one top commander, Imhamed Kamel, since his appointment in December 2020 by the House of Representatives.

In its statement, Amnesty urged both the GNU and those with "de facto control" to hold perpetrators to account rather than incorporating them into state institutions or providing them with financial backing.

"Instead of incorporating armed groups suspected of crimes under international law into state institutions and trying to secure their allegiance or score political points by granting them financial backing, the Government of National Unity and those with de facto control of territory must take steps to hold perpetrators to account," urged Morayef.