Geneva – Illicit and unaccounted for weapons are spreading indiscriminately among the Libyan population, warns the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor. Following the popular unrest that broke out in 2011, the international invasion and the consequent development of competing militias, all public-security institutions have broken down.
“This escalating danger requires urgent action by the central authorities in Libya, with the support of the United Nations, to find and collect these weapons, and to work with surrounding countries to secure their borders so no more can flow in,” says Yahya Ashraf, researcher at Euro-Med Monitor. “However, this must be done without trampling on the civil and human rights of its citizens and the thousands of migrants seeking refuge.”
Dozens of loosely formed, armed groups have formed, with most of them centered in the Libyan capital of Tripoli. This “chaos of weapons” held by residentsis the primary source of violence in the country and the major obstacle to the reconstruction of Libya. Burglaries, robberies, kidnapping (including of humanitarian workers), murder, and drug and arms trafficking are all on the rise.
An equal concern of Euro-Med Monitor is the recruitment of children into the ranks the militias, which train them to carry and use weapons, and the danger faced by the estimated 350,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) and another 270,000 refugees fleeing mostly from Chad, Egypt and Niger.
These dynamics have combined to create a crisis in Libya in which about 1.3 million people suffer from food insecurity, 60 percent of hospitals and other medical facilities are not able to fully operate and 2.5 million people are in need of humanitarian aid. Meanwhile, workers for NGOs, the media and independent human rights advocates have been targeted with assassinations and abductions. During the first eight months of this year, 150 assaults on and violations of the freedom of the press were recorded. Libya is ranked 164th in the world in freedom of expression
“Libya cannot control the chaos on its own, and it should not have to; after all, the international armed intervention in 2011 caused much of this mayhem,” says Ashraf. “The United Nations organizations and the Security Council must work with Libya to prevent the unfettered flow of weapons into the country.”