Almost a year after the start of the Libyan uprising that led to the ousting and killing of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, new research suggests more than a third of its citizens would rather return to being ruled by a strongman than embrace democracy.
Despite thousands of deaths in the revolt against Colonel Gaddafi's 40-year rule, fewer than a third of Libyans would welcome democracy, according to the study published by the Institute of Human Sciences, at the University of Oxford, and Oxford Research International.
Libya is traditionally a tribal society and there are concerns that the vacuum created by Colonel Gaddafi's removal in October could lead to clashes between the factions that toppled him. In recent weeks, medical and human-rights groups have complained that the situation in parts of country is getting out of control.
The deaths of 12 detainees who lost their lives after being tortured by the various militias running law and order in towns and cities across country are documented in an Amnesty International report released today. The study follows last month's decision by Médecins sans Frontières to halt operations in Misrata after being asked by officials to treat prisoners midway through torture sessions, allowing authorities to abuse the victims again.
Still, the survey found 35 per cent would still like a strong leader in five years' time, although more than two-thirds wanted some say in future governance.
"Although there appears to be a push for an early election, the population seems to be happy with the National Transitional Council [NTC]," Christoph Sahm, director of Oxford Research International, said.
"Perhaps more significantly, Libyan people have not yet developed trust towards political parties, preferring a return of one-man rule. Yet they have also resoundingly said they want a say in how their country is run, which suggests Libyans who have had autocratic rule for decades lack the knowledge of how a democracy works and need more awareness of the alternatives to autocratic government."
While trust in the NTC will be welcomed by Western backers - 81 per cent of Libyans expressed faith in the new administration that helped defeat Colonel Gaddafi - 16 per cent said they were ready to resort to violence for political ends.
The figures are borne out by the Amnesty report, 'Militias threaten hopes for new Libya,' which points to evidence of war crimes being committed against Gaddafi loyalists. Its authors found that torture or ill-treatment was being perpetrated in 10 out of 11 detention centres they visited, with several prisoners saying they had offered false confessions to rape and other offences simply to end their ordeal.
The bodies of the 12 men who died were covered in bruises, wounds and cuts, Amnesty said, and some had fingernails and toenails pulled out.
"Militias in Libya are largely out of control and the blanket impunity they enjoy only encourages further abuses and perpetuates instability and insecurity," said Amnesty's Donatella Rovera. ""Militias with a record of abuse of detainees should simply not be allowed to hold anyone and all detainees should be immediately transferred to authorised detention facilities under the control of the National Transitional Council."