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UN urges probe into 'excessive use of force' at Tripoli protest

UN mission in Libya said the internationally recognised government must protect Libyans' freedom of expression and peaceful assembly
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the country's capital Tripoli on Sunday.
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of the country's capital Tripoli on Sunday (AFP)

The UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has called on the country's internationally recognised government to "conduct an immediate and thorough investigation" after security forces used excessive force against demonstrators in Tripoli.

Hundreds of Libyans gathered in the capital on Sunday to protest against deteriorating living conditions and corruption before security personnel fired into the air to disperse them, according to reports.

"The rights to peaceful assembly, protest and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights and fall within Libya's obligations under international human rights law," UNSMIL said in a news release on Monday.

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Videos and photographs circulating on social media showed men in military clothing aiming their guns towards protesters in one of the capital's streets.

One protester told the AFP news agency that demonstrators had left Tripoli's Martyrs' Square after "security forces started firing in the air".

UNSMIL noted the people demonstrating were "motivated by frustrations" at the government for providing a lack of basic services for them.

Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) said late on Sunday that the individuals responsible for the violence "do not belong to the security forces", adding they would be arrested.

GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha referred to them as "outlaws who infiltrated the security forces" who had been supervising the protest.

Libya ceasefire

The protest came two days after the country's warring rival administrations simultaneously announced a ceasefire that would cease all hostilities and hold nationwide elections.

Some of the protesters in Tripoli carried white flags to show their lack of allegiance to any of Libya's main factions.

Pictures of Haftar, GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and the country's eastern parliament leader Aguila Saleh all had their faces crossed out in red during the rally, as seen on social media.

Since 2014, Libya has been split between areas controlled by the GNA and territory held by forces loyal to eastern commander Khalifa Haftar. 

Turkey, along with regional ally Qatar, has backed the GNA, while Russian mercenaries, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have supported Haftar.

"Given the continuing immiseration of the Libyan people and the ever-present threat of renewed conflict, it is past time for Libyan leaders to put aside their differences and engage in a fully inclusive political dialogue," the UN mission said.