Middle East

McCain urges Libyan militias to join national army

U.S. Senator John McCain speaks during a news conference in Tripoli February 22, 2012. (REUTERS/Anis Mili)

TRIPOLI: Sen. John McCain urged Libya’s militias Wednesday to integrate themselves into the country’s new national army and called for the reported abuse of prisoners held by the ex-rebels to stop.

McCain, a strong advocate of U.S. intervention to stop deposed leader Moammar Gadhafi’s crackdown on the country’s 2011 uprising, spoke to reporters after meetings with former rebel commanders and the chairman of the ruling National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, in Tripoli.

The senator said he raised the issue of alleged abuses inside makeshift prisons run by militias.

“We made clear to them that human rights organizations are reporting serious abuses and the world is watching. We know it is difficult but these abuses need to stop so Libya can be respected everywhere in the world,” he added.

He also said that he advocated the collection of weapons by the authorities, adding that if they “fall into the wrong hands, it would pose a very serious threat.”

The U.N. and other agencies have expressed concerns about the proliferation of weapons from the upheaval, fearful that it may feed instability throughout the region.

Hundreds of armed militias that fought against Gadhafi’s forces are the real power on the ground in Libya, wielding control over cities, neighborhoods and borders.

The country has been plagued by revenge attacks by those who suffered at the hands of Gadhafi’s forces during the brutal civil war. Rights groups have documented reports of widespread torture and killings of detainees.

The NTC in contrast has been unable to rein in fighters, rebuild decimated institutions or stop widespread graft.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 24, 2012, on page 8.

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