Libyan Lawmaker Resigns Saying Militias Threaten His LifeChristopher Stephen and Caroline Alexander
A Libyan lawmaker who chairs parliament’s human rights committee resigned and fled to the U.K. claiming his life is under threat from militias after he denounced their growing power on local television.
Hassan El Amin also criticized abuses by some militiamen against prisoners of war in Libyan jails, in a televised interview on March 5. He spoke after the country’s parliament, the General National Congress, was attacked by militiamen in Tripoli this month, causing a week-long suspension.
In an interview in London, El Amin, 53, said he received death threats from militia leaders after the broadcast, went on television on March 13 to resign and then returned to London, where he spent 28 years in exile during Muammar Qaddafi’s rule.
“It is quite conceivable that Al Amin would have been killed” and his ordeal reflects security threats faced by prominent political figures in Libya, said Anthony Skinner, head of Middle East and North Africa analysis at Maplecroft, a U.K. risk consultancy. “It mirrors the lack of rule of law and the fact that militias can act with impunity – a trend which is likely to persist in the medium term.”
Libya has more than 500 militias formed during the eight-month civil war in 2011, when warplanes from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization helped oust Qaddafi. Libya’s government wants militiamen to disarm and integrate into the armed forces, a call many fighters have ignored.
“The good revolutionaries went back to their jobs and studies, what we have left is gangsters,” El Amin said. “They are running the show. They have to be disbanded.”
Lawmaker Mohammed Toumi, who was with El Amin during the siege of parliament, resigned as chairman of the congressional 19 Committee, which proposed legislation barring Qaddafi era officials from office and that triggered the militia attack on parliament. Speaker Mohammed Magarief’s armored car was also hit by 12 machine gun bullets and its tires shredded.
About 30 militiamen attempted to storm the office of Prime Minister Ali Zaidan late yesterday and were thwarted by interior ministry security forces, spokesman Moftah Belied said in a phone interview in Tripoli.
El Amin is the first person to resign from congress altogether.
“His departure is certainly a big loss for Libya, which is struggling through this transitional phase,” Hanan Salah, Libya researcher at Human Rights Watch, said of El Amin. The New York-based group has worked with El Amin since 2005 when he was campaigning against Qaddafi abuses in exile, she said.
El Amin was elected as an independent lawmaker in his native Misrata last July, Libya’s first free vote in more than 50 years, which returned the 200-strong congress. As a transitional legislature, its main task is to oversee the drafting of a constitution and organize elections for a permanent government. A timetable is outlined in the so-called road map, a declaration drawn-up during the war to chart the country’s transition to democracy.
The process has been beset by delays, hampering the foreign investment needed for reconstruction and economic development. El Amin described the road map as dead.
“I wanted my resignation to be a message to the congress to have a new road map,” he said. “It should be a road map with clear targets.”
El Amin said his job in Libya was hampered by his inability to speak out about human-rights violations, with some Misratan militia leaders threatening him after he demanded that families be allowed to visit relatives in jail.
About 8,000 prisoners from the 2011 war continue to be held in jails under government or militia control, Human Rights Watch says.
“I went back to Libya with tears of hope in my eyes,” El Amin said. “Now, I have had to run away again.”