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Rights group to Libya: Stop destroying town

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:03 p.m.

TRIPOLI — An international rights group on Wednesday urged the Libyan government to halt the “systematic destruction” of a town whose residents backed ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi during the country's civil war.

The town of Tawergha was used as a staging ground by Gadhafi's forces to orchestrate attacks on nearby Misrata, Libya's third largest city. After rebels broke the siege of Misrata and overran Tawergha, the town's 40,000 residents fled or were driven out by vengeful rebels. Scores were held in prisons under militias' command in Misrata and Tripoli, where rights groups recorded cases of torture and abuse.

Now the displaced residents live in harsh conditions in refugee camps in Tripoli and Benghazi, representing a challenge to the new Libyan government on achieving national reconciliation and justice.

Human Rights Watch based its report on recent satellite images that showed “arson and targeted demolitions” of Tawergha in an attempt to prevent the residents from coming back, the group said.

“The forced displacement of roughly 40,000 people, arbitrary detentions, torture and killings are widespread, systematic and sufficiently organized to be crimes against humanity and should be condemned by the United Nations Security Council,” the group said in its report.

“Successive governments in Tripoli and local authorities in Misrata have failed to stop the ongoing persecution of an entire community,” said Fred Abrahams, special adviser at Human Rights Watch.

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