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Amnesty International report brands Libya's militias 'out of control'

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Abdel Magid Al Fergany/AP

(Read caption) Libyan militias from towns throughout the country's west parade through Tripoli, Libya, Tuesday Feb. 14.

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Last week, Libya's transitional leaders requested that Niger extradite a son of Muammar Qaddafi to stand trial in the country. Today, a new report from Amnesty International lays out its case for why it would be crazy for anyone to send someone to the new Libya to face "justice."

More than six months since Muammar Qaddafi was killed near his hometown, the torture and murder of former Qaddafi loyalists (or suspected loyalists) remain widespread. Some of the victims are sub-Saharan Africans caught in the crossfire of Libya's war, who the revolutionaries insist fought for Qaddafi. (When I was in Libya last year, I was shown African men, wearing rags and some without proper shoes, described as "mercenaries" for Qaddafi; that did not seem accurate to me.)

The militias that toppled Qaddafi's dictatorship remain outside of any central authority and, in the picture painted by Amnesty, are increasingly behaving like ferocious regional mafias. During and immediately after the war, the militias murdered scores of Qaddafi supporters in captivity, tortured many others, and razed the homes of still others to punish them for their political beliefs.

Now, Amnesty says "hundreds of armed militias ... are largely out control," that armed clashes between rival militias are "frequent," and that "thousands" of people remain illegally detained by the militias.

Amnesty researchers met "scores" of torture victims in Tripoli, Zawiya, Gharyan, Misrata, and Sirte in January and February. The victims reported a range of torture methods used against them that were once standard in Qaddafi's own prison system: electric shocks, extensive burning, whippings with metal chains, and hours tied up in contorted stress positions. Some militia members opposed to torture told Amnesty they feared reprisals if they spoke out against it. 

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