Amnesty International accuses Libyan govt-backed militia of human rights abuses

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  • Abdel Ghani al-Kikli of the Gheniwa militia and leader of the government's Stability Support Authority has been accused of human rights violations.
  • Amnesty International documented detention of migrants and refugees found at sea by militia.
  • AI called on the EU to suspend co-operation with Libya on migration and border control unless the issue was remedied.

One of the most powerful militia leaders in Libya, Abdel Ghani al-Kikli of the Gheniwa grouping, stands accused of gross human rights violations, a new report by Amnesty International (AI) showed.

Ghani al-Kikli, a prominent rebel figure since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-led campaign in 2011, was, in last January, integrated into government operations under the Stability Support Authority (SSA).

The SSA is a security institution affiliated with the Presidential Council and works to consolidate security and stability.

READ | Libya raid against migrants kills one, wounds 15: UN

However, with Ghani al-Kikli in charge, AI said human rights abuses had reached unprecedented levels.

On 19 April, AI wrote to the Libyan authorities on the complaints received against Ghani al-Kikli and his former deputy Lotfi al-Harari, demanding their removal from office.

Members of Libyan security forces accompany migran
Members of Libyan security forces accompany migrants whose boat was intercepted off the coast trying to illegally sail the Mediterranean, into a reception centre near the capital Tripoli.

This was after AI's visit to Libya in February where they spoke to nine people who, "said they suffered grave human rights violations at the hands of the SSA members, as well as eight family members and three activists".

Diana Eltahawy, AI's deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said the government's SSA was flawed because it gave powers to militias.

She said:

Legitimising abusive militia leaders and putting them on state payroll with no questions asked only empowers them to continue trampling on the rights of more people with complete impunity.

In the new report by AI, Ghani al-Kikli was singled out as being in charge of a decade-long terror campaign in Tripoli which he must answer for in a court of law.

"For over a decade, militias under his command terrorised people in the Tripoli neighbourhood of Abu Salim through enforced disappearances, torture, unlawful killings, and other crimes under international law. He should be investigated and if there is enough admissible evidence, prosecuted in a fair trial," the organisation said.

AI said the Ministry of Interior representatives in Tripoli confirmed the SSA was in the business of intercepting migrants and refugees at sea and taking them to their detention centres.

The ministry also told AI that SSA reported directly to the president and not it, and as such, they did not know how and why they get to detain migrants and refugees.

Eltahawy added:

Mass arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour, rape, and other horrific violations by SSA militiamen against refugees and migrants are yet another grim reminder that refugees and migrants intercepted at sea should never be returned to Libya.

She also urged the EU to urgently suspend any co-operation with Libya on migration and border control unless things changed. 

"They must ensure that any future cooperation is contingent upon Libyan authorities ending the policy of arbitrary detention of migrants and refugees and effectively investigating crimes against them," she said.

International law stipulated that commanders were individually liable to face prosecution if they knew the crimes of their subordinates and failed to do anything about it.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation

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