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Libya rights-panel chief flees country, citing death threats

Blames militias refusal to disarm

The chairman of Libya’s parliamentary human-rights committee has resigned and fled to London, saying militias threatened to kill him after he criticized their unchecked power and flagrant violations of the law.

“The whole country is full of armed men, many of them are hanging onto their guns because they still feel the revolution is not safe,” Hassan El Amin said in a phone interview with The Washington Times on Thursday evening. “Many of those militias are totally out of control.”

The threats to Mr. El Amin were delivered in menacing phone calls and warnings scrawled on the walls of Misrata, his hometown in the western part of Libya.

Militia leaders in Misrata threatened him after he demanded that families be allowed to visit their relatives in prison.

“I cannot carry out my job under these circumstances ... The balance of power belongs to the militias and hooligans on the streets,” he said.

U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, State Department officer Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed in an attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in the eastern city of Benghazi on Sept. 11.

Mr. El Amin said that while the problem of rogue militias is rampant across the country, Islamist militias are more active in Benghazi.

Libya’s former dictator, Moammar Gadhafi, was killed by revolutionary militias on Oct. 20, 2011, in his hometown of Sirte, a city on the Mediterranean coast about 230 miles east of Tripoli.

While the revolution ended with Gadhafi’s death, many of the militias have refused to give up their weapons. Human-rights groups have accused some of them of torturing detainees suspected of being loyal to the Gadhafis.

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution last week in which it expressed concern about reports of human-rights violations and abuses in detention centres across Libya.

“I have so many concerns about human rights violations in Libya, it is getting to a stage where it is even worse than during Gadhafi’s time,” said Mr. El Amin, who spent 28 years in exile at the time of Gadhafi's rule and was elected to parliament in July.

While Mr. El Amin has been a longtime critic of the militias, the "last straw" for him was when they attacked the Libyan parliament, the General National Congress, in Tripoli earlier this month. Gunmen also fired on the armored car of General National Congress president Mohamed al-Megariaf.

This week, militias tried to storm Prime Minister Ali Zeidan’s office in Tripoli.

Mr. El Amin said he wanted to send a message through his resignation to the Libyan parliament to "get its act together" and take on the militias.

“A lot of facts have become clear about human rights abuses [by the militias], the continuous attacks on the government, the kidnappings, and all of this is setting off a warning bell for the Libyan people,” he said. “The people are fed up and there is a lot of awareness that something needs to be done.”

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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