The U.N. mission to Libya has condemned the killing of a lawyer and women’s rights activist who was shot in her car in the east of the country.
“UNSMIL strongly condemns the killing of lawyer Hanan al-Barassi” on Tuesday “in broad daylight, in Benghazi by unidentified armed men,” the organization said Wednesday.
Barassi, 46, was well-known in the media and frequently spoke out for female victims of violence in videos that she then broadcast on social media. She also ran a local women’s rights group.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday called for authorities in eastern Libya to “promptly investigate the apparent politically motivated killing” of Barassi.
“The killing of an outspoken lawyer in broad daylight in Benghazi will send chills through activists across the region,” said Hanan Salah, senior Libya researcher at the New York-based HRW.
“This brutal killing smacks of a cold-blooded execution,” she said. “Armed groups in Benghazi seem to think they are invincible and immune from accountability. The authorities there need to prove them wrong and ensure that they face justice for their crimes.”
Barassi was buried the same day in a Benghazi cemetery. Images of her funeral were widely shared online, some showing her tombstone reading “Martyr for Truth.”
Criticism of Haftar
Moments before she was killed, Barassi had been broadcasting a live Facebook video in which she criticized allies of the east’s military strongman, Khalifa Haftar, and vowed to reveal their alleged crimes.
Haftar joined the condemnations of Barassi’s killing and sent condolences to her family and friends, in a statement issued by his spokesman.
The U.N. mission said Barassi “had been a vocal critic of corruption, abuse of power and human rights violations.”
“Her tragic death illustrates the threats faced by Libyan women as they dare to speak out,” it said, also urging a prompt investigation and justice for the perpetrators.
The killing sparked an outpouring of anger in Libya, which has endured years of lawlessness and conflict since the toppling and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in a 2011 uprising.
The country has been divided between a U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord based in Tripoli and a rival administration in the east backed by Haftar.
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