The UN mission to Libya on Monday urged the Government of National Accord (GNA) to conduct an “immediate and thorough investigation” after violence at a protest in Tripoli a day earlier.
Hundreds gathered in the capital on Sunday evening to protest deteriorating living conditions and denounce corruption in the war-torn country, before security personnel fired into the air to disperse them, witnesses said.
“UNSMIL calls for an immediate and thorough investigation into the excessive use of force by pro-GNA security personnel in Tripoli yesterday which resulted in the injury of a number of protesters,” the UN mission said in a statement, without specifying how many people were wounded.
Videos and photographs circulating on social media showed men in military attire aiming their guns towards protesters in one of the capital’s streets.
Ayman al-Wafi, a young man in his twenties who attended the protest, told AFP that demonstrators had left Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square after “security forces started firing in the air”.
Angered by chronic water, power, and petrol shortages in a country with Africa’s largest proven crude oil reserves, the mostly young people had marched through the city centre chanting slogans including “No to corruption!”
Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha called those responsible for the violence “outlaws who infiltrated the security forces” supervising the protest.
The interior ministry on Sunday evening said in a statement that the men “do not belong to the security forces” and would be arrested.
Libya has endured almost a decade of violent chaos since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
The country is plagued by water shortages and power blackouts that snuff out air-conditioners in the searing summer heat.
The situation has been compounded by the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has spread in the country despite social distancing measures.
Considering “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.
The protest came just two days after the country’s warring rival administrations announced separately that they would cease all hostilities and hold nationwide elections.