Libya Grapples for Control of Militias
Libya’s Supreme Security Committee (SSC) was accused of kidnapping and torturing Salem Forjani, a prominent surgeon and human rights activist. Several members of the SCC, a group tasked with controlling militia factions in Libya, confronted Forjani at a Tripoli hospital where they allegedly beat him in front of hospital staff before taking him away for five days. The SCC released Forjani without charges or explanation. The Libyan government has remained silent on the event, even as photos of Forjani being beaten have circulated on Facebook. Other allegations of prisoner abuse have surfaced with claims of inmates being subjected to regular beatings and the use of electroshock weapons as the transnational government struggles to assert control over a patchwork of militia groups. The Libyan government claims these abuses are only occurring in prisons beyond transnational control.
A Libyan military court convicted twenty-four men from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus of being mercenaries for Moamer Gaddafi. One Russian received a life sentence, while the others received ten years’ hard labor. All twenty-four denied the charges, claiming they were in Libya to work for the oil industry. Civilian trials of several former Gaddafi loyalists will begin June 5th, including the former leader’s son Saif al-Islam whose extradition to the International Criminal Court was delayed Friday as ICC judges decide if the court has jurisdiction to try him.
Libyan officials announced the June 19 assembly elections will be delayed at least until the first week of July, citing the need to vet candidates and distribute ballots.
A militia group called the al-Awfea Brigade surrounded Tripoli’s international airport and shut down operations Monday. Flights were diverted to a military airport in Tripoli. The militia is demanding the release of their leader Col. Abu Oegeila al-Hebeishi who was kidnapped by rebels Sunday night.
UPDATE According to Al Jazeera, the militia group surrounding Tripoli’s airport has withdrawn. Tripoli’s Security Commission denied having any knowledge of al-Hebeishi whereabouts.