Misrata forces bar displaced Libyans from returning: HRW
TRIPOLI, February 21, 2012 (AFP)
Libyan officials from the port city of Misrata are barring thousands of displaced people from returning to two villages and allowing militias to loot and burn the area, a rights group said on Tuesday.
“Tomina and Kararim are ghost towns because Misrata officials are blocking thousands of people who fled from returning home,” said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director of New-York based Human Rights Watch.
“Some Misrata militias took up arms to get rid of oppression, and they are now bringing it back by oppressing others,” he was quoted as saying in a report by HRW after a visit to the area in late January.
The villages of Tomina and Kararim, which previously had about 5,000 residents each, were used as launchpads for attacks and a siege against rebel-held Misrata during the war that ended Moamer Kadhafi’s regime last year.
“Armed groups from Misrata are openly looting and destroying their homes, as they have been doing for months in (the nearby town) of Tawarga,” which has seen similar violence and the displacement of 30,000 civilians, HRW said.
Misrata officials accuse the people of Tomina, Kararim, and Tawarga of having fought alongside Kadhafi’s forces in committing atrocities against Misratans during the 2011 conflict, HRW said.
HRW called on Misrata authorities to order the militias under their control to stop the looting and destruction of homes, and to deploy a protective force to facilitate the return of displaced people.
“The Misrata authorities can definitely do a lot more to allow returns now and to protect civilian property,” it said.
Local military authorities control Misrata, overseeing 250 militias and operating checkpoints up to 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the coastal city, the watchdog said.
Its report was based on interviews with residents of the two villages south of Misrata.