Western Libyan government condemns human rights report

CAIRO (AP) — A rival Libyan government said a report by an international human rights group accusing it of abuse of power contained false allegations. London-based watchdog Amnesty International released the report earlier this month documenting abuses of migrants by a state-funded security agency in western Libya.

The Tripoli-based government of Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah said late Thursday that Amnesty International’s report “lacks professionalism and credibility”.

“We see this as a manifestation of long-standing systemic bias against Libya’s national interests,” it said in a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The report, released on May 4, accused the state-funded Stability Support Agency (SSA) of a range of abuses — including unlawful killings, arbitrary detention, detention of immigrants and refugees, torture, forced labor and sex crimes.

The SSA is led by militia leader Abdel-Ghani al-Kikli, who controls a detention center in the Abu Salim community of Tripoli. Although he has previously been implicated in war crimes by global human rights groups, Dbeibah named him SSA chief last year and granted him broader powers of arrest.

An Amnesty International delegation visited Libya in February and spoke with victims, their families and activists, the report said. The report states that representatives of the Tripoli-based interior ministry confirmed to Amnesty International that the SSA operates its detention centres without any ministerial oversight and reports directly to Dbeibah.

Diana Eltaharvey, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “Legitimizing abusive militia leaders and putting them on the national payroll without question will only allow them to continue to trample on more rights of many people with impunity.”

However, the Libyan government said the amnesty delegation did not visit any security agencies during its visit and did not ask about any violations.

Migrants often try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya, desperate to reach European shores. The country has become a major transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

Traffickers have benefited from the chaos in Libya in recent years, smuggling migrants across the oil-rich nation’s long border with six countries. Migrants are then usually loaded into ill-equipped rubber dinghies for dangerous sea voyages.

At least 476 migrants died along the central Mediterranean route between January 1 and April 11, according to the International Organization for Migration. The EU works with the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept migrants who are often sent back to Libya’s coast and held in abusive detention centres.

Eltahawy said the abuses documented in this month’s report “are another grim reminder that refugees and migrants intercepted at sea should never be returned to Libya.”

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