1 May 2013

Libya: Armed Protests Sow Turmoil in Tripoli

Tripoli — Rogue militiamen continued to surround the Libyan justice and foreign ministries in Tripoli on Wednesday (May 1st), in an effort to bar former Kadhafi regime members from serving in government.

The siege of the foreign ministry began on Sunday when 38 vehicles carrying anti-aircraft guns and more than 200 troops surrounded the building. Then on Tuesday, militiamen surrounded the justice ministry and ordered it shut.

Meanwhile, protestors gathered opposite the foreign ministry to call for legislators to pass the "political isolation law" and cleanse the ministry of former regime loyalists.

Demonstrators claim that many Kadhafi appointees still serve as ambassadors, attaches and other employees abroad.

An employee prevented from going to work at the foreign ministry said that none of the protestors entered the ministry building. Instead, they staged their protests around it, sealed off all roads leading to it and prevented employees from entering or approaching the ministry building.

Jamal Zubia, a member of the political isolation co-ordinating committee, which is organising some of the armed protests, said on Monday that the foreign ministry siege would continue until the law was passed.

Members of the co-ordinating committee distributed a pamphlet reading "Yes to Political Isolation."

"We'll no longer stand as a bulwark to protect your thrones; we'll withdraw and let the storm uproot you and your thrones," the flyer said.

Political isolation was "a goal of the glorious revolution and a desire of martyrs", it added. The pamphlet called on "honest, free people" to stand for the approval of the political isolation law.

Meanwhile, GNC Second Deputy Speaker Salah al-Makhzoum said that the congress never promised passage of the bill on Tuesday, as demanded by protestors. He noted that a decision was made to refer political isolation bills to blocs in the GNC and it was expected that they would be finalised in the next two weeks.

Al-Makhzoum also pointed to law 63 of 2012, which proscribes armed protests and requires demonstrations to obtain official permission.

"A day may come on which we found ourselves forced to use all necessary and legal measures against all illegal manifestations," Prime Minister Ali Zidan warned.

On Monday, Zidan said the militias besieging the foreign ministry were "a challenge to human rights".

"Imposing your opinion on others, using force and weapons is against the principles of human rights," Libya Herald quoted Zidan as saying.

"We respect the opinions of everyone if they come through the election box, but we won't accept opinions voiced through weapons, even if the price is our necks and souls," Zidan said.

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