EU countries call for release of Libyan politician Siham Sergiwa

Diplomatic missions express concern over welfare of MP who disappeared after July interview critical of Khalifa Haftar.

    People walk past an election campaign poster for Siham Sergiwa in Benghazi [File: Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters]
    People walk past an election campaign poster for Siham Sergiwa in Benghazi [File: Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters]

    European diplomatic missions in Libya have called for the "immediate release" of a politician and prominent women's rights activist who was kidnapped in Benghazi four months ago.

    Siham Sergiwa disappeared on July 17 following an attack on her home by an armed group in the coastal city, which is controlled by eastern forces loyal to renegade General Khalifa Haftar. Relatives say the 56-year-old may have been kidnapped by the commander's forces after a critical interview with a pro-Haftar television station.

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    In a statement on Sunday, the European missions expressed deep concern over the welfare of Sergiwa, who is a member of the Tobruk-based House of Representatives.

    "We continue to call on relevant Libyan authorities to conduct urgent investigations into her disappearance, and provide an update on her whereabouts," said the statement signed by the European Union's delegation and the embassies of Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

    The signatories also warned that violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in Libya will not go unnoticed and perpetrators will be held accountable.

    "The trend of attacks against politicians, political activists and members of civil society, and in particular women, is unacceptable," it said.

    The United Nations has also called for an investigation into Sergiwa's disappearance and for her immediate release.

    The raid that resulted in her kidnapping also reportedly saw her husband shot in the leg and came shortly after she spoke on Al Hadath television, an outlet that backs Haftar.

    During the broadcast she had called for "an end to the bloodshed", referring to an offensive launched in April by Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army to wrest control of the capital, Tripoli, from rival fighters loyal to the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

    Al Jazeera's Mahmoud Abdelwahed, reporting from Tripoli, said such incidents involving public figures have increased in Libya in recent years.

    "There have been a lot of attacks on politicians and political activists, including opponents of the operation led by the forces loyal to Haftar," he said.

    Haftar's fighters and the pro-GNA forces are currently embroiled in a stalemate in Tripoli's southern outskirts.

    The fighting has killed more than 1,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. Some 300,000 people have been displaced.

    Libya has been split between rival camps based in Tripoli and the east since 2014, a result of the divisions that surfaced following the NATO-backed overthrow of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi three years earlier.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies