Armed militias that helped bring down Moammar Kadafi are now repeating many of his abuses, Amnesty International warned Thursday in a report that comes a year after the start of the uprising against the Libyan strongman.
The armed groups were heralded as heroes when Kadafi was toppled, but are now "largely out of control," the group wrote. Scores of people have been killed, thousands have been tortured and homes were looted and burned as militias carried out revenge attacks against alleged Kadafi supporters, it said.
Amnesty International also found that militias seized and detained people without legal justification, torturing them behind bars using electric shock, whips and metal chains.
The Times has witnessed rebels taking "justice" into their own hands, locking suspected Kadafi loyalists in underground tunnels.
One man said that he had been detained after a street scuffle. "They accused me of being a Kadafi supporter, and before I even started the court proceedings for breaking the man's nose, they took me to their brigade house and kept me there for two weeks of interrogation," a Tripoli telecommunications employee told The Times anonymously in December.
The Libyan transitional government told the militias to hand in their weapons and clear out in December, but the order was ignored. Amnesty International wrote that the new government "appears to have neither the authority nor the political will to rein in the militias."
Kadafi was captured and killed in October. Libyan officials said he had been placed in an ambulance that was caught in crossfire between rebels and pro-Kadafi forces, but human rights groups suspect his captors killed him.
Bringing the armed groups under control is one of the biggest challenges for the fledgling new Libyan government. Feuding militias have riddled the country with gunfire and bombings. If the militias line up with squabbling political factions, they could turn political conflicts into deadlier clashes, observers fear.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Libyan militia members parade through Tripoli on Tuesday.This photo was not part of the Amnesty International report. Credit: Abdel Magid Al Fergany / Associated Press