01/26/2012, 00.00
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Libyan militias involved in bloody clashes as 8,500 remain in ‘secret’ prisons

A weak and absent government is unable to collect weapons from armed groups involved in settling scores or asserting their control over territory. UN envoy does not exclude an escalation in domestic strife.
Tripoli (AsiaNews) – The United Nations is deeply concerned that Libyan militias are out of control, holding thousands of people in secret detention centres. The UN's Libya envoy, Ian Martin, told the Security Council in New York on Wednesday that clashes in Bani Walid that left four people dead were caused by a confrontation between revolutionary militias and armed residents. At the same time, similar incidents have taken place in Tripoli and Benghazi.

More than 8,000 pro-Gaddafi supporters are being held by militia groups, amid reports of torture, UN officials said. The caretaker government has so far proven too weak to impose its authority and disarm the armed groups.

Local sources told AsiaNews that security and public order are out of control. “The place is awash in weapons, even here in Tripoli. You can frequently hear gunfire, especially at night. We avoid going out after sundown because the possibility of being robbed or attacked is high.”

The real danger, sources say, is not a return of Gaddafi loyalists, but outbreaks of bloody clashes among tribal groups settling scores, revenge attacks between clans and fights over who controls the territory.

Ian Martin’s report to the Security Council shows the government cannot manage the situation and that Libya is paying a price for Gaddafi’s legacy of “weak, at times absent, state institutions, coupled with the long absence of political parties and civil society organisations, which render the country's transition more difficult".

He also noted that clashes in Bani Walid were misreported as pro-Gaddafi forces trying to retake the city.

Although the authorities have been able to contain clashes so far, the latter can still increase with unpredictable consequences.

The lack of a strong central government is especially bad for human rights. At least 8,500 Gaddafi loyalists are still held in 60 centres run by militias, outside of any government control.
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