Gunmen shot dead a prominent dissident in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi as political talks in neighbouring Tunisia focused on a road map towards elections in Libya.
Hanan al-Barassi, 46, an outspoken critic of abuses in the eastern areas controlled by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA), was shot dead in public on Tuesday, rights groups and a security source said.
Al-Barassi “was shot dead in Road 20, one of the main commercial streets in Benghazi”, a security source, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP news agency.
“Moments earlier, she had been broadcasting a live video via Facebook.”
It was a reminder of the bloodshed still racking Libya as peace talks continued in Tunis and military negotiators hashed out ceasefire details in the front-line city of Sirte.
“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.
She also ran a local association for the defence of women’s rights.
Amnesty International said al-Barassi and her daughter had received death threats. It noted that her social media page had said on Monday she planned to release a video exposing alleged corruption within Haftar’s family.
Neither the LNA nor other authorities in eastern Libya immediately released any statement about the assassination.
Al-Barassi’s killing comes nearly a year and a half after the disappearance of legislator Siham Sergewa, who was abducted from her home in Benghazi by armed men.
Before her abduction, she had slammed an offensive launched by Haftar in April 2019 to take the capital Tripoli from the United Nations-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).
Sergewa’s whereabouts are still unknown.
The murder of al-Barassi sparked an outcry across Libya, with many on social media demanding justice.
The news of al-Barassi’s killing “is appalling and a painful reminder of the reality on the ground especially for women”, said fellow Libyan lawyer Elham Saudi, who is also known for her defence of human rights.
“With no accountability, violators will continue to get away with literal murder in broad daylight.”
Amnesty International denounces the assassination of lawyer Hanan al-Barassi, who was shot today in Benghazi in public. Hanan has been vocal in criticizing the corruption of several individuals affiliated to the armed groups in Eastern #Libya (1/3). pic.twitter.com/ER5HUXlLib
— amnestypress (@amnestypress) November 10, 2020
Libya has been split since 2014 between the eastern-based LNA and the GNA in Tripoli in the west.
Both sides represent coalitions of armed groups as well as regional and political factions. 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 UN 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, including withdrawals from front lines.
The progress in military talks comes as the UN presses political talks in Tunis involving 75 representatives to discuss a path to elections and the formation of a new unified transitional government.