Killing of Libyan dissident underscores stakes in peace talks


Gunmen shot dead a prominent dissident in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Tuesday, a stark reminder of the country’s violence as sides in a civil war sought to implement a ceasefire and political talks focused on a roadmap towards elections.

Hanan al-Barassi, a lawyer and outspoken critic of abuses in areas controlled by eastern military leader Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), was shot dead in public, rights groups said.

“Barassi has been publicly vocal about cases of alleged assault and rape of women in Benghazi in which she implicated members of the armed groups in Benghazi, and she also alleged financial fraud,” said Hanan Salah, senior Libya researcher for New York-based Human Rights Watch.

Amnesty International said Barassi and her daughter had received death threats. It noted that her social media page had said on Monday she planned to release video exposing corruption within Haftar’s family.

The LNA said in a statement it had summoned security chiefs in Benghazi and ordered them to investigate the assassination.

The US embassy in Libya expressed shock over the killing. “The era of missing and murdered civilians must come to an end now,” it said in a statement.

Libya has been split since 2014 between the LNA and an internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli in the west. Turkey supports the GNA, while the United Arab Emirates, Russia and Egypt back the LNA.

In June the GNA repelled a 14-month LNA assault on Tripoli, and front lines have solidified near Sirte on Libya’s central Mediterranean coast.

Last month the United Nations brokered a ceasefire and on Tuesday a joint military commission from both sides met at a new Sirte headquarters to detail ways to implement it.

The progress in military talks comes as the United Nations presses political talks in neighbouring Tunisia involving 75 representatives, to discuss a path to elections and the formation of a new unified transitional government.