GNA Forces Use Heavy Weaponry to Disperse Protesters

0
345

At least six peaceful protesters were abducted, and several others were wounded after security forces fired live ammunition to disperse a demonstration in Tripoli, according to eyewitness testimonies.

A report published by Amnesty International called for the immediate release of all those abducted, and for a prompt, thorough, and independent investigation into the use of force which would hold accountable those responsible of such violence.

On Sunday protesters took to the streets in several cities in the west of Libya, including Tripoli, Misrata, and Zawiya, to protest against deteriorating living conditions and corruption. In Tripoli, unidentified men in military camouflage clothing opened fire on the crowd without warning, using AK-style rifles, and truck-mounted guns.

Sources told Amnesty International that at least six protesters were abducted during the same incident. The attack happened in an area of Tripoli controlled by the Al-Nawasi militia, nominally operating under the Ministry of Interior of the Government of National Accord (GNA).

“The GNA has the responsibility to uphold the right to peaceful protest, protect protesters from those seeking to silence them with live ammunition, and address the underlying issues that have led people to come out onto the streets”, said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Instead of reining in abusive, unaccountable militias and armed groups, the GNA has been relying on them for security, law enforcement, and fighting its rivals. This lawlessness and impunity only perpetuate the suffering of civilians in Libya, who are not even able to safely voice their legitimate grievances about the dire economic and humanitarian situation without facing the barrels of guns. We are calling on the GNA to immediately conduct a thorough, impartial, independent, and transparent investigation into the unjustified use of force against protesters and ensure that all those responsible are held accountable. The whereabouts of all those abducted must be revealed and those detained must be immediately released”, she said.

Videos show assailants using a heavy machine-gun mounted on a pick-up truck firing live rounds into the air to disperse the protesters and push them back towards Martyrs Square. Witnesses said that there were no warnings or any other attempt to disperse the crowd peacefully before the shooting started. Amnesty International geolocated the videos, determining that some showed images from Treeg Al-Shat, and others from Martyrs’ Square.

Witnesses told Amnesty International that they saw at least three men wounded. The organisation examined photos showing a man with possible bullet wounds in his lower right side and back. It also found a video showing a man who appeared to be unconscious being carried on a motorcycle. The shooting continued to be heard until around 9pm.

One protester told Amnesty International: “The images of armed groups firing on peaceful protesters brought back memories of the February 2011 protests against, [the late former leader of Libya] Muammar Gaddafi.”