Libya Swears in New Defense Minister

Photo Credit: Libya Herald

Libya’s Congress swore in a new defense minister on Monday despite continued attacks against security forces by armed militias. Abdullah al-Thinni will replace Mohammed al-Barghathi, who wasrelieved of his duties by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan in late June. Al-Thinni’s position had been vacant since June despite Libya’s volatile security situation. The latest attacks came on Tuesday night in Benghazi were a civilian was killed in a car bomb. A spokesman for the security forces said that Hamed Ali al-Warfelli‘s death appeared to be a “settling of scores” and did not, initially appear to be politically motivated.

A report by Human Rights Watch argues that Libya’s failure to hold accountable those who commit crimes, like the killing of al-Warfelli and others, “highlights the government’s failure to build a functioning justice system.”  The report outlines the difficulties that law enforcement officers face and says that “Law enforcement officials acknowledged… that they had not concluded any of the investigations despite trying to conduct investigations into the assassinations. They said they lacked sophisticated means to investigate, faced many obstacles due to the prevailing security situation, and lacked the means to summon witnesses without the use of force.” The report also makes several recommendations to the Libyan government, the international community, and the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), which call for the provision of adequate technical support, the provision of added protection for vulnerable groups, and the establishment of serious, transparent, and independent investigations into the political assassinations that have plagued the country.

Lindsay BensteadEllen Lust, and Jakob Wichmann, meanwhile, offer a more optimistic view of Libya’s progress. “Libyans are not only optimistic about their future but also strongly committed to achieving democracy,” they write. They explain that unlike Tunisians and Eyptians, only a minority of Libyans equate democracy with economic issues. For Libyans, democracy is characterized in terms of “human rights, free elections, and political liberties.” And, they argue, although Libyans long for strong democratic institutions and face many roadblocks, they “have reason to be optimistic about their chances of achieving democracy.” “Libya has avoided deep ideological divides that have plagued neighbors like Egypt,” they write, “The good news is that despite the ongoing violence, politics and elected institutions still matter.”