CAIRO (AP) — The U.N. human rights chief warned Tuesday that civil society, bloggers and professionals in Libya face a "climate of fear" created by warring militias whose clashes left 17 dead in western region.
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein says his agency has received numerous reports of assaults targeting rights advocates in Libya including murder, abduction and death threats. Many have fled or suspended their work.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement that the attacks amount to "war crimes." He said perpetrators benefit from "total impunity" for such attacks and threaten Libya's few independent voices.
In one incident last month, two well-known activists were among 10 people killed in eastern Benghazi.
Violence and rivalries have deeply split Libya, which has fallen into chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Militias mostly from the coastal city of Misrata and allied to Islamist political factions took control of the capital after fierce battles with rival anti-Islamist militias mostly from the mountain town of Zintan. The battles left hundreds dead, displaced thousands and forced diplomats and foreigners to flee.
On Tuesday, fighting continued in vicinity of small western town of Kikla, nearly 150 kilometers (93 miles) west of Tripoli, leaving 17 dead, according to a hospital official. The deaths bring total number of people killed over the past four days to over 60 and 170 injured.
In eastern Libya, a new round of battles appeared imminent after renegade Gen. Khalifa Hifter announced in a late televised statement new offensive to "liberate" Benghazi, second largest city, "from terrorists."
Benghazi has fallen into hands of Islamist extremist militias in the past few months. The militias overran army barracks and seized large amounts of weapons.
Hifter's forces called for an "armed uprising" on Wednesday in Benghazi, urging youth to carry weapons and fight for their own neighborhoods.