Date: June 16 2012
AS THE casualties mount from fresh clashes in southern Libya between soldiers and tribesmen, security in the capital Tripoli, Zintan, Misrata and the eastern city of Benghazi remains shaky as militias extend their control.
A convoy carrying the British ambassador to Libya was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Benghazi on Monday, and days earlier a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the US consulate there. Two weeks ago, Tripoli's international airport was seized by militiamen.
In the midst of this instability, which has plagued Libya since the revolution that ended Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule, a delegation from the International Criminal Court, including Australian lawyer Melinda Taylor and her Lebanese-born interpreter Helene Assaf, was detained in Zintan last week.
Ms Taylor was in Zintan to visit Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who has been held by local militia since November. The ICC has charged him with crimes against humanity. Ms Taylor and her ICC colleagues have been placed in ''preventive detention'' for 45 days as Libya investigates the threats she allegedly posed to its national security.
Foreign Affairs officials last night contacted Ms Taylor's parents to say they had still not been given permission to visit her, despite claims made on the ABC by Libya's delegate to the ICC, Ahmed Jehani, that she could be released as early as tomorrow.
''We have had a steady deterioration of the security situation in Libya in the past couple of weeks,'' said Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, head of the Middle East and North Africa program at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.
''The proliferation of the militia is one of the key elements destabilising Libya. They are young men roaming around, heavily armed and with a sense of entitlement about the paternity of the revolution. This should have been tamed by the [ruling National Transitional Council] months ago.''
He said Tripoli was in danger of becoming like Baghdad in 2005, with different groups instituting neighbourhood-level political economies. The government's recent decision to delay elections for a national congress scheduled for June 19 until July 7 was a symptom of the chaos, he said.
''To be fair to Libya and to the NTC, these are not easy issues … there were no political parties, no civil structures. In effect Gaddafi left a booby-trapped society.''
Amnesty International researcher Diana Eltahawy has just returned from Libya and also voiced fears over the role of militias, saying, ''A law passed last month gave them immunity from whatever they may have done in the name of the revolution, which is deeply worrying.''
Both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have documented evidence of abuses by the militias, including torture and extra-judicial executions.
In the Misrata district, more than 12,000 people have been displaced from the town of Tawergha.
A UN Human Rights Council commission of inquiry reported that Misrata militias had committed crimes against humanity.
''The Misrata thuwar [revolutionaries] have killed, arbitrarily arrested and tortured Tawerghans across Libya,'' it concluded in a March report. ''The destruction of Tawergha has been done to render it uninhabitable.''
Ms Eltahawy said: ''Victims of Gaddafi's regime deserve to see justice, but what they are seeing is revenge.''
With RORY CALLINAN
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