The Interior Ministry of Libya’s Government of National Unity (GNU), headed by Abdelhamid Dbaiba, has been accused of using security forces to intimidate protesters in the capital, Tripoli.
This follows the deployment of various security units across the city last Friday in anticipation of new protests. The protests took place due to a recent meeting between Libyan Foreign Minister, Najla El Mangoush, and Israeli Foreign Minister, Eli Cohen, a move seen as a step towards normalisation with Israel and in violation of Libyan law.
Acting GNU’s Interior Minister, Emad Al-Tarabulsi, inspected the security deployments to assess their readiness and the implementation of a security plan for the capital. He stated during a government meeting that demonstrations aimed at causing chaos, overthrowing the government, or destroying public and private properties are unacceptable.
Observers, however, criticise Al-Tarabulsi for appearing disconnected from the reality on the ground, pointing to recent incidents of property destruction, violent clashes between Battalion 444 and the Deterrence Force, resulting in 55 deaths and over 140 injuries, and the lack of any action from the Interior Ministry.
Critics argued that the real intention behind the heavy security deployment is to intimidate citizens and prevent them from expressing their opinions, citing recent suppressions of demonstrations, the use of live ammunition to disperse protesters, and the arrest of dozens.
Abdul Hakim Fanoush, a political analyst and writer, labeled the security measures as a move towards “gang rule.” On his Facebook page, he commented, “what is happening in Tripoli today is unprecedented. It is a declaration of gang rule and imposition of their control,” adding, “we are facing a cartel of mafia men who now control vital institutions for their own gains.”
Notably, an Israeli official stated last month that El Mangoush and Cohen engaged in a conversation for over two hours during a meeting in Italy. He told Reuters that the meeting was prearranged at the “highest levels” in Libya, contradicting Libyan statements of an unplanned encounter that sparked protests across the country.
The Foreign Ministry in Tripoli stated that El Mangoush refused to hold any meetings with Israeli representatives, and what occurred in Rome was an “incidental, unofficial meeting during a meeting with Italian Foreign Minister, Antonio Tajani.”
However, the Israeli official cast doubt on this account, saying, “the meeting was prearranged at the highest levels in Libya, and lasted for about two hours. The Libyan Prime Minister views Israel as a potential bridge to the West and the US administration.”
Following the disclosure of the meeting, the Prime Minister of the GNU, Abdelhamid Dbaiba dismissed El Mangoush. Protests against the government and Israel erupted in Tripoli, with some demonstrators storming the foreign ministry building. By Monday, El Mangoush, had fled the country.