Hostilities are increasing within Libya’s newly elected House of Representatives as Islamist lawmakers continue to skip key sessions, bringing the parliament’s legitimacy into doubt.

The parliament elected the independent lawmaker Ageela Salah Issa al-Ebeidi as its new president on 5 August, but a group of around 30 Islamist lawmakers did not take part in the vote.

Mohamed Atharat, House of Representatives member for the port city of Misrata and one of the lawmakers who skipped the session, told MEED it was impossible for him and his peers to attend meetings as the city where the new parliament is based is controlled by the former general Khalifa Haftar, who is waging a war on Libya’s Islamists in the country’s east, without the authority of the central government.

“We can’t go to Tubruk, Heftar and his men control it,” says Atharat. “The planes that bomb the revolutionaries in Benghazi leave from Tubruk”

Speaking by telephone from Tubruk, Younis Fanoush, the House of Representatives member for Benghazi dismissed Atharat’s safety fears and said the new body still held legitimacy – with or without the attendance of the Islamists lawmakers.

“This is the new legitimate body in Libya and we hope we can represent our people in a way that [will] please them,” says Fanoush. “The invitation is still open for other members to join us in Tubruk, but Benghazi and Tripoli are too dangerous to meet in.”

The dispute within the new parliament comes as Islamist militias and anti-Islamist forces continue to battle each other with grad rockets and tanks in both the capital and Libya’s second city, Benghazi.

On Wednesday 6 August the House of Representatives called for a UN-backed ceasefire to end the current conflict that has killed more than 200 people and seen the British, American and French embassies evacuated over the last couple of weeks.

The militias currently fighting in built up areas of Libya and Benghazi have been accused of war crimes by Amnesty International.

“The warring parties in Tripoli and Benghazi have displayed a wanton disregard for the safety of ordinary civilians who have found themselves mercilessly pinned down by indiscriminate shelling with imprecise weapons that should never be used in populated areas,” says Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.  

“All sides in both these conflicts have an absolute obligation under international law not to target attacks against civilians.”

A total of 981 people have been injured in the conflict according to Amnesty and some 30,000 people fled the fighting, crossing the border into Tunisia over the week ending on 6 August.

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