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02/08/2013

Libya: Where militias run riot and justice is weak

At the University of Toronto conference on sexual violence in Libya and Syria:

Thousands of women were raped in Libya during the 2011 uprising against despot Moammar Gadhafi  But post-Gadhafi Libya is an extremely difficult place to prosecute these crimes because of a lack of security and proper judicial institutions, said Hilmi Zawati, president of International Legal Advocacy Forum.

“Militias are running several places of the country and they can get to the courtroom, speak harshly to the judges and lawyers if they want to,” he said.  “There is urgent justice reform needed.”

Raped women should be considered “heroines because they were fighting for freedom,” he said.

What the international justice system can do to help these victims isn’t clear. 

Libya is already heading for a showdown with the Hague-based International Criminal Court. 

On Thursday ICC judges ordered Libya to immediately surrender former head of intelligence Abdullah al Senussi for his suspected role in reprisal violence against protesters in 2011, according to a court statement reported by Reuters.  He is wanted on war crimes charges.

But Libyan authorities have insisted former Gadhafi officials in their custody including the dictator's son Saif al Islam should face justice at home.  The Hague-based court will respond at a later date if the authorities refuse to comply with the judges’ order, the statement added.  

Hamida Ghafour is a foreign affairs reporter at The Star. She has lived and worked in the Middle East and Asia for more than 10 years and is the author of a book on Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter @HamidaGhafour 

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