Libya struggles to maintain order in the face of post-Gadhafi chaos

(Deutsche Welle) Although Libya’s revolutionaries managed to destroy the Gadhafi regime with the help of NATO, the country’s interim leaders are sitting on a political powder keg as they struggle to establish law and order amid chaos.

The tasks facing Libya’s Western-backed interim government in trying to restore political and social order are big enough as it is. Now, there’s an additional challenge in the form of massive unsecured weapons stockpiles which threaten to destabilize the broader region. Revolutionary military councils have been engaging in skirmishes as retribution killings against alleged Gadhafi loyalists jeopardize the reconciliation process.

In western Libya outside the capital, Tripoli, fighters from the coastal city of Zawiya have clashed with armed tribesmen from Warshefana. The skirmishes killed at least 13 people during four days of fighting that saw heavy gunfire and the use of rocket propelled grenades, according to reports by the Associated Press. The cause of the clashes remains unclear.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has gathered mounting evidence of human rights abuses committed by forces associated with the National Transitional Council (NTC). Militias from the northwestern coastal city of Misrata – which suffered a brutal months-long siege at the hands of Gadhafi – have arbitrarily killed and detained residents and burnt homes in the now abandoned town of Tawergha, according to HRW. Many Tawergha residents fought for Gadhafi during Libya’s civil war.

And in Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, where the Libyan dictator was captured and killed, HRW reported finding the bodies of 53 regime loyalists who had apparently been summarily executed at the hands of revolutionary forces allied with the NTC. Attacks have also reportedly occurred against black-skinned Africans accused of having fought for Gadhafi as mercenaries.

“For all the talk about the need for reconciliation, for all the talk about the need of doing the right thing, doing the right is much harder,” Sarah Leah Whitson, who heads HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Division, told Deutsche Welle

“To the extent that there are these kinds of revenge attacks and this sort of division in the country of punishment for people who were loyal to Gadhafi, it will be very hard to transition in the direction the country needs to transition, which is accountability for past crimes but also reconciliation,” Whitson said.

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