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Libya’s west-based government denounces rights report

CAIRO (AP) — One of Libya’s rival governments has said that a report by an international human rights group accusing it of abuses contains false accusations. Earlier this month, the London-based watchdog Amnesty International issued the report, which documents abuses against 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’s report “lacked professionalism and credibility.”

”We consider it a manifestation of the systematic and long-held bias against the interests of the Libyan state,” it said in a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

The report, issued on May 4, accuses the state-funded Stability Support Authority (SSA) of committing a long list of abuses — including unlawful killings, arbitrary detentions, detention of migrants and refugees, torture, forced labor and sexual crimes.

The SSA is headed by Abdel-Ghani al-Kikli, a militia leader who controls a detention center in Tripoli’s Abu Salim neighborhood. Although he has been previously implicated in war crimes by global rights groups, Dbeibah appointed him as SSA head and granted him broader arrest powers last year.

The report said that an Amnesty delegation had visited Libya in February and spoke to victims, their families and activists. Representatives from the Tripoli-based Interior Ministry confirmed to Amnesty that the SSA runs its down detention centers without any ministerial oversight and that it it reports directly to Dbeibah, noted the report.

“Legitimizing 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,” said Diana Eltahawy, Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

However, the Libyan government said the Amnesty delegation did not visit any security agencies and did not inquire about any violations during their visit.

Migrants regularly try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya in a desperate attempt to reach European shores. The country has emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the oil-rich country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are then typically packed into ill-equipped rubber boats and set off on risky sea voyages.

At least 476 migrants died along the Central Mediterranean route between Jan. 1 and April 11, according to the International Organization for Migration. The EU has partnered up with Libya’s coast guards to intercept migrants, who are usually returned back to Libyan shores and held in detention centers plagued with abuses.

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

By NOHA ELHENNAWY
Associated Press

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