Amnesty International: Tawergha people’s return to their city still blocked

Two months ago, in June 2017, a political agreement was signed paving the way for their return. However, the terms of the deal not been implemented and some of those who have attempted to make the journey home since have faced threats and intimidation.

Six years since the Tawargha people were displaced from their hometown by Misurata forces in August 2011, the community of about 40,000 people are still unable to return safely to their homes, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

Two months ago, in June 2017, a political agreement was signed paving the way for their return. However, the terms of the deal not been implemented and some of those who have attempted to make the journey home since have faced threats and intimidation. The agreement also fails to ensure access to justice and reparations for the horrendous abuses Tawarghas have endured in recent years, Amnesty International said.

“The failure to hold anyone accountable for the catalogue of abuses the Tawargha have suffered since they were displaced demonstrates the catastrophic consequences of years of lawlessness in Libya, where militias have committed gross human rights abuses with complete impunity,” said Heba Morayef, North Africa Research Director at Amnesty International.

“Without clear political will to enforce the agreement to ensure the Tawargha’s safe return home, the public commitments made in June will be little more than an empty gesture.” She added.

Amnesty International added that the agreement, signed on 19 June 2017 between leaders from Tawargha and Misurata, the Government of National Accord and other officials, fails to ensure accountability for the crimes under international law and other grave human rights abuses committed against the Tawargha people, thereby reinforcing a climate of impunity. Many in the Tawargha community welcomed it because it appeared to at least guarantee the conditions for a safe return.

“An agreement that blatantly ignores the horrific crimes committed against the Tawarghas was always doomed to failure. Only a deal that ensures the right of the community to return safely and prioritizes justice by ensuring that those responsible for atrocities are held accountable for their actions can offer a real way forward,” said Heba Morayef.

The agreement, signed on 19 June 2017 between leaders from Tawargha and Misratah, the Government of National Accord and other officials, fails to ensure accountability for the crimes under international law and other grave human rights abuses committed against the Tawargha people, therby reinforcing a climate of impunity. Many in the Tawargha community welcomed it because it appeared to at least guarantee the conditions for a safe return.

“An agreement that blatantly ignores the horrific crimes committed against the Tawarghas was always doomed to failure. Only a deal that ensures the right of the community to return safely and prioritizes justice by ensuring that those responsible for atrocities are held accountable for their actions can offer a real way forward,” said Heba Morayef.

“Return home blocked”

The first Tawargha families attempted to return three days after the agreement was signed in June. Despite public support for the deal from Misurata officials, the families were threatened and intimidated at a checkpoint by individuals from Misurata and forced to turn around and go back to Tripoli.

Emad Irqayh, a Tawargha activist, told Amnesty International that he set out for the town in a convoy of 35 cars on 22 June, after coordinating with individuals from Misurata who were supportive of the return. He said he was 1km away from the last checkpoint when he saw two cars turning back. “They told me they were stopped and threatened. So I called the other families who were in cars behind me and told them to turn back to avoid escalation, some of the women began crying,” he said.

On 29 June, during Eid, a smaller group of families made another attempt to return. One member of the Tawargha community, travelling with his 87-year-old mother, described the heartache and disappointment he felt upon his return to the town and their inability to stay there.“It was a very emotional moment I won’t lie to you, I had tears in my eyes, but the level of destruction of our home town is devastating,” he said, adding that he and his mother spent just a few hours there before having to head back.

“Libyan political factions must ensure Tawarghas are protected from all forms of intimidation, threats and attacks and order all affiliated-militias to allow the community to return safely to their hometown,” said Heba Morayef.

“It is essential that the Government of National Accord and officials in Misurata, including the Misurata Local Council, take the lead in enabling and securing the safe return of the Tawarghas. This includes monitoring the return and settlement process, rehabilitation of homes, schools, and infrastructure of the town.”

As well as ensuring the safe return of displaced families to Tawargha, Amnesty International calls on officials in Misratah, members of the Misratah Municipal Council and Libya’s Presidential Council of the Government of National Accord and the Ministry of Justice to uphold the right of Tawargha victims to seek truth, justice and reparation for the human rights violations they have endured and continue to suffer.

The views expressed in Op-Ed pieces are those of the author and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Libyan Express.
How to submit an Op-Ed: Libyan Express accepts opinion articles on a wide range of topics. Submissions may be sent to oped@libyanexpress.com. Please include ‘Op-Ed’ in the subject line.
Azara Media Azara Media
You might also like

Submit a Correction

For: Amnesty International: Tawergha people’s return to their city still blocked

Your suggestion have been successfully submitted

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Libyan Express will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.