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Written by Alrassed Alliby Editor
23 Apr 2013 4:19 pm
Libya: preventing displaced people from returning to their homes

Libya: preventing displaced people from returning to their homes

The cities Tamina and Kararim turned into ghost cities because Misrata officials prevented thousands of people from returning back to their homes. The armed groups from Misrata are looting homes and destroying same as they did for a month in Tawergha.

Peter Bouckaert, head of the emergency department at Human Rights Watch

(Tripoli), Human Rights Watch said today that the authorities of Misrata and the city around prevented  thousands of people from returning to villages Tamina and Kararim, and failed to stop local militias from looting and burning of houses in these villages.

Human Rights Watch said that this violation also reflects what suffered from about 30 thousand displaced people from Tawergha who were prevented from returning to their homes for more than five months.

The city of Misrata officials tried to justify these violations of Human Rights Watch by saying that the residents of Tamina and the Kararim and Tawergha fought with Gaddafi forces and committed atrocities against Misrata's people during the conflict of 2011

Peter Bouckaert, head of the emergency department at Human Rights Watch, who visited the villages recently and met a number of the displaced population Said: “The cities Tamina and Kararim turned into ghost cities because Misrata officials prevented thousands of people from returning back to their homes. The armed groups from Misrata are looting homes and destroying same as they did for a month in Tawergha.

The Human Rights Watch said that the authorities of Misrata should issue immediate orders to the militias to stop the looting and destruction of homes, and the recruitment of a protective force in the mentioned areas to facilitate the return of the displaced people.

Human Rights Watch said that the transitional government in Libya and international parties that support it should push on Misrata authorities and militias to stop its repressive practices toward the displaced persons. And must be investigated with militia leaders and elements responsible for the crimes, and bring them to justice to be held accountable, including those crimes to prevent people from returning to their homes.

Also Human Rights Watch said that the Transitional National Council and the transitional government were unable to impose their control on the hundreds of militias in Libya. But In Misrata, the local military council has extensive control over the militias, which is estimated to be 250 armed groups. It seems that the military council in Misrata runs the checkpoints, which is located at a distance of about 80 kilometers south of the city.

Peter Bouckaert said: "the authorities of Misrata need to do more to allow the displaced to return now and protect their properties and they must take the necessary steps to stop these crimes mentioned in international law."

Ramadan Zrmoh the head of the military council in Misrata told Human Rights Watch, in early February, that the problems of Tamina and Kararim are between residents of the two villages and the resolution requires the former residents of the two villages to Deliver "criminals" to be represented in front of the court.

In February, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the Chairman of the National Transitional Council, talked about the same subject, and told the media that the families can return to the areas surrounding the city of Misrata "after the wanted are brought to justice.

Human Rights Watch said that there should not be required to allow the return of people to their homes with the prosecution of certain persons who may have been involved in criminal acts. And must take the necessary steps to ensure the return of the displaced before the occupation or destruction of their homes or else they will be permanently homeless. As also Human Rights Watch said that preventing a group of people from returning to their homes is considered as a collective punishment.

In Tamina and Kararim, the Human Rights Watch watched the militias’ elements while looting and burning homes during its visit to two villages in late January. As watched the writings on the walls of at least ten houses saying that the security committee in Kararim granted the home ownership to the new "owners". It also has switched the names of the original owners of some homes with new names.

In Kararim 25 kilometers south of Misrata, Human Rights watched dozens of families who have not left or returned to the village during the conflict, and it seems that the reason that these families were supporting the anti-Gaddafi forces. There was an intensive presence of militias that consist of Kararim residents who fought in the ranks of the anti-Gaddafi forces. In Tmana, ten kilometers south of Misrata, the Human Rights Watch didn’t see any occupied dwelling, while officials said that 20 percent of the displaced people returned to their homes. Tawergha remains completely deserted.

Some displaced from Tamina and Kararim told Human Rights Watch that Gaddafi forces ordered the civilian population to leave the villages on May 12, 2011. And Tawergha residents escaped with Gaddafi's forces during the retreat in mid August.

Some residents of Tamina and Kararim, who tried to return back during the past few months, told Human Rights Watch that the elements of the Misrata’s militia stopped them at a checkpoint of 80 km south of the city. The gunmen validated of the names of the people based on the lists of names of wanted persons accused of collaboration with Gaddafi's forces or involved in crimes committed during the war. The villagers interviewed by Human Rights Watch said that their names were not on the list, but even though they were prevented from returning to their homes.

In late January 2012, she visited; Human Rights Watch said the compound and saw between 60 and a hundred families there are guarded by militias from several cities. And a militia commander said his men are doing to protect the population and to help them pay for food and other needs. Prevent his people from leaving the compound without Security to protect them from attacks that could be exposed to them, he said:

Some of displaced residents said that the number Tamina and Kararim were estimated by five thousand people in each village, many of whom were loyal to the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. And a lot of villagers are living in small farms its ownership back to approximately 60 years. Gaddafi's forces used Tawergha, the two villages, cities and towns nearby Misrata as a base to launch attacks on Misrata, which was under the control of the opposition during the war, and to impose the siege in April / May, which greatly affected the lives of civilians.

The situation is getting worse for 30 thousand inhabitants of Tawergha compared to residents of villages neighboring, since the city is abandoned completely after the population were suffering from displacement, harassment, attacks and arrests at the hands of militias of Misrata, which cause the deaths of who were in custody, also Human Rights Watch has documented this earlier. On February 6, a group of militants attacked a camp for displaced people from Tawergha in janzour area in Tripoli. Based on the ten eye-witnesses, the attack caused the deaths of seven men, women and children and wounding more than 15 others.

The Human Rights Watch visited Tawergha more than 12 times between September and January, and its researchers View a militia elements while burning and destroying homes during those visits. In late January, Human Rights Watch was unable to find any home in Tawergha is not burned.

According to Article 7 (d) of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, a "deportation or forcible transfer of population" is a crime against humanity, and is known as the "transfer of the concerned persons forcibly from the area that they are lawfully present, by expulsion or other coercive acts another, without reasons permitted under international law.” and  to prevent displaced people from returning Can be considered as a coercive act that lead to their displacement compulsory. This is a crime against humanity if practiced widely and systematically as part of the optional policy adopted by some organizations, such as the military councils

In accordance with the law of armed conflict, allowing the deportation of people during the armed conflict only in specific circumstances, but should allow people who have been deported to return immediately after the conflict. The deportation of the civilian population, and the deliberate destruction of property, and punishment of the civilian population en masse, all these actions could be war crimes.

The Human Rights Watch said that the transitional government in Libya and the authorities of the city of Misrata, and all military commanders are obliged under international law to investigate these crimes and prevent their occurrence, and to facilitate the return of civilians to their homes. The military and civilian officials may find themselves in the process of trial in Libya or in front of the International Criminal Court.

Peter Bouckaert said: "If you are from Tawergha, Tamina and Kararim, so the new Libya is not a safe place for you. Some Misrata militias carried weapons to get rid of repression, but now they are returning it by the suppression of others."

Human Rights Watch Interviewed six of the population of Tmana and Tawergha, each individually, and dozens of other people in the four groups. All of these people said that Gaddafi's forces were present in the two villages during the siege of Misrata in April / May of 2011. They also said that Gaddafi's forces issued an order to evacuate the villages on May 12, and they were given a few hours to leave their homes.

The residents said that most people of Tamina and Kararim escaped and take only a few of their belongings and left their animals behind. The residents said that they did not have any choice but to escape to the south to the areas that were under the control of Gaddafi's forces, such as Elhisha and Wadi Zamzam and Sirte; due to heavy fighting between the front line of the opposition in Misrata and the areas under Gaddafi's forces.

The majority of the population still displaced in these areas today, and they live in very difficult conditions because of Misrata officials do not allow them to return to their homes.

"Mustafa", who is a farmer in Tmana, a 40-year-old man and now lives in a small apartment in Sirte, told Human Rights Watch that 35 people of six families were living together in a farm of ​​ten acres area in Tmana. He said that Gaddafi's forces came at the beginning of the siege on Misrata in March / April, and allowed the families to stay there, but they won’t take any responsibility of any fire may come from there. Because of the ongoing fighting there, the families decided to escape on April 14. Mustafa added: "the only way to leave is in the direction of the south, and so we ran all to Sirte."

Mustafa also said that his family left behind 250 head of sheep that was everything owned by the family. After the war, the family tried to return but one of the Misrata militias forced them to move into an apartment near Tawergha, and let them know that they need written permission from all their neighbors before allowing them to return. The three neighbors submitted their permits, but the fourth refused to sign, as his son was killed while fighting in the ranks of the opposition.

"Ahmed" (a nickname), he is a 45 years old father of three children, told Human Rights Watch that his family escaped on May 13 from the farm of ​​five hectares in Tmana, that we owned since 1966, in the direction of Sirte. Ahmed said "we have not escaped in that direction because we are supporting Gaddafi, but because it was impossible to pass the front line, so we headed towards the south." In late January, Ahmed was still living in an apartment complex. The military council refused that Ahmed and his neighbors to return to their homes. Ahmad said:

I have been here since November 24, and we could not all go back to our land. If I tried to go back to my farm, I would be arrested; they describe us as displaced traitors. There are security committees in Kararim that refuse to let anyone return. Even those who live in Misrata cannot return to their farms.

Ahmed also said: he tried once to return to his home from Sirte, but officials stopped him at the checkpoint 80 kilometers away from the city, and took him to the apartment complex, and there no one is allowed to leave.

I came back from Sirte in my own car on November 24, and at the checkpoint, which lies 80 kilometers; officials stopped us and took us to these apartments. They do not allow us to leave this place except in militia cars, without our own cars. They Provide us with basic food only: no grain, no meat ... We have lost everything: our cars, our homes, our land, our agricultural machines, property, and our animals. And all this looting and vandalism occurred after liberation and not during the war.

Ibrahim" (a nickname), is 60 years old and has 12 children, he rented a farm from the government since 1948. With the advent of Gaddafi to power in 1969, the land was granted to his family. Ibrahim talked to Human Rights Watch about what happened in the first half of 2011:

Things were fine between February and March. The soldiers were at a distance of two kilometers from my farm, and we were in the middle. I did not give any information to the soldiers about my neighbors, and they did not ask me for food.

On May 12, the army came to my farm and asked me out. We left my own car, and did not take with us except some clothes, and we left everything. We did not have enough time, they asked us to leave immediately. We thought it will only be for two or three days, so we did not carry anything with us, and we set off to Elhisha

We did not try to return because of the checkpoints. City of Misrata is the only place where there are a large number of checkpoints around the city; officials do not allow people passing through. Even if they will, I'll go and live in a burning house. They looted everything, and we’ve lost 150 head of sheep, and seven cows and three horses. If it was up to me I would get back there, although all the houses were burned. We all want to return

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