The United Nations-backed Libyan National Agreement government has condemned the murder of prominent Libyan lawyer and women’s rights activist Hanan al-Barassi, who was shot dead by armed men on Tuesday in the eastern city of Benghazi.
Her murder in Benghazi, under the control of the Libyan National Army (LNA), came just a day after she posted comments on social media criticizing the son of renegade military general and LNA leader Khalifa Haftar.
“The killing of human rights defenders and opinion leaders and the silence of votes is a heinous crime and a shameful form of tyranny and a desperate attempt to destroy hope for the establishment of a civil and democratic state,” Libya’s Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha tweeted Tuesday .
According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), al-Barassi – whom the mission describes as a “loud critic of corruption, abuse of power and human rights violations” – was shot dead by unidentified armed men “in broad daylight”.
“Her tragic death shows the threat Libyan women face if they dare to speak out,” added UNSMIL.
In videos posted publicly on her Facebook page, al-Barassi criticized people who are loyal to the LNA. In a livestream shared on Monday just a day before her murder, al-Barassi said she would not be silenced by threats.
“I will not surrender, only with bullets will I ever surrender – when I die, so be it. Only in death am I silenced. I’ll have some surprises tomorrow [to share], some surprises, ”she told the audience.
The LNA has not yet responded to a CNN request for comment on al-Barassi’s death.
The US Embassy in Libya urged local authorities to conduct an urgent investigation into the killing of al-Barassi, adding that “the silence of the voices of peaceful activists should not be tolerated”.
“This brazen murder underscores the importance of forming a government that is accountable to the Libyan people, rather than letting corruption and brute force determine the future of Libya,” the US embassy said.
Elham Saudi, director of Lawyers for Justice in Libya, an organization that seeks to defend and promote human rights in the conflict-ridden country, described the attack as a “terrifying and painful reminder of the reality on the ground” for women in Libya.
“Without accountability, violators will continue to get away with literal murder in broad daylight,” she added.
Al-Barassi’s killing follows a series of attacks against those critical of forces aligned with the LNA.
In 2019 one of Libya’s most prominent politicians and a vocal critic of Haftar, Seham Sergewa, was kidnapped from her home in Benghazi by a militia group loyal to the LNA. While an investigation into her abduction has opened, she has yet to be found.