Amnesty International blows whistle on human rights situation in Haftar-controlled areas
Amnesty International has expressed concern about the human rights situation in areas controlled by Khalifa Haftar's militias.
In a press release Tuesday, the organization said it had documented the arbitrary detention of dozens of residents in Sirte and else were including journalists and protesters, for participating in "peaceful demonstrations."
"The reality in Sirte offers just a frightening glimpse of life under LAAF ( Haftar's forces) and affiliated armed groups, which have brutally crushed the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, and silenced all dissenting voices," Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International said.
The organization indicated that around 11 people were detained after participating in a demonstration in Sirte on 19 March. At least nine protesters and a journalist are still detained incommunicado, according to the same source, which confirmed that videos of the protest and eyewitness testimony indicate that the protesters were practicing their rights peacefully.
"The LAAF must immediately ensure the release of all those detained simply for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and expression,” said Eltahawy, noting that in the past few years, suspected opponents and critics of Haftar's militias have either been gunned down in the street, forcibly disappeared or are languishing in jail.
A group of 13 men has also been detained over their alleged participation in a protest in support of Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi’s candidacy in November 2021 before being released in the same month, while several protesters were jailed following demonstrations against Khalifa Heftar, according to Amnesty International.
A member of the Gaddafi tribe from Sirte told the organization that the Internal Security Agency (ISA), a collection of armed groups operating in areas under Haftar's control told him that they had orders to crack down on the protest.
Amnesty International noted that some of the residents were arrested for taking part in a protest organized to demand compensation for victims of the 2011 NATO airstrikes, saying that this shows just how intolerant "LAAF" and affiliated armed groups are of any independent activism, even if not critical of their rule.
It said that residents in Sirte also voiced concerns about reprisals from the ISA for speaking to international organizations, confirming that some refused to speak, citing surveillance fears.
A delegation from Amnesty International which visited Sirte last February was told by the local authorities that they would not allow them to meet with or speak to residents in private.
"For the entire duration of the delegation’s visit, they were accompanied by numerous plainclothes members of the ISA and intelligence agents, who harassed them and prevented them from speaking to anyone privately," according to the press release.
Eltahawy demanded the international community to extend the UN’s Fact-Finding Mission beyond June 2022 so it can continue to investigate the alleged abuses.