Critics: Little appetite at UN to press Libya

AP News
Posted: Mar 21, 2012 4:47 PM
Critics: Little appetite at UN to press Libya

Serious crimes committed by former rebels in Libya risk going unpunished because members of the U.N.'s top human rights body show little appetite to press the new government to investigate abuse committed since the fall of the Gadhafi regime, rights groups warned Wednesday.

A U.N. expert panel report published earlier this month found former rebels continue to persecute people perceived as loyal to late Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Militias are holding thousands of people in makeshift detention where torture is rife, the report said.

"The transitional authority is not willing to investigate what these militias are doing," said Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International.

"They are not even willing to admit the extent of the problem. For those people who are victims of the militias they have nobody to turn to," she said.

Rovera said campaigners were disappointed that a resolution to be voted on this week by the U.N. Human Rights Council lacks any concrete proposals for investigating abuses.

The resolution before the Geneva-based body was submitted by the new government itself and is titled "Assistance for Libya in the field of human rights."

Elham Saudi, the director of the London-based group Lawyers for Justice in Libya, said the council risks rewarding the new government with impunity in much the same way as Gadhafi was embraced by the international community after he gave up his nuclear program and took responsibility for the Lockerbie attack that killed 270 people on Pan Am Flight 103.

"They (the new government) have said the right things and made the right noises but they haven't really changed anything," she said.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib told the council last month that his interim government would uphold human rights, but insisted that its actions could not be measured with the same stick as those of the Gadhafi regime, whose forces the U.N. panel said had committed "crimes against humanity and war crimes."

Sub-Saharan Africans who were brought to oil-rich Libya as workers during Gadhafi's 42-year rule are among those who have faced the worst persecution in recent months. Many are accused of having been mercenaries, but few have faced any kind of formal trial.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking after attending a U.N. anti-racism event in Geneva, said the world risks forgetting about the African workers.

"In Libya, the cameras have left but the abuses have not," he told The Associated Press.

"Now that the war is technically over, there remain thousands of them in prison and their basic human rights are not being protected," Jackson said. "The world that cries out for justice in Libya must include them."

Western diplomats said Arab countries had objected to stronger language in the U.N. resolution, and that other resolutions on Syria, Sri Lanka and Iran were considered more important. The diplomats declined to be quoted citing the sensitivity of the issue.

Amnesty's Rovero said the fragile justice system in Libya was still "completely paralyzed" six months after the end of the conflict.

"I think with Libya there is a real sense of panic in the international community to end its involvement while it is deemed a success," she said.