By Sami Zaptia.
London, 12 April 2017:
The acting head of the Tripoli Civil Registry Authority, Khalid Bibas was confirmed today as having been kidnapped by militias in Tripoli yesterday. Another colleague was also reported to have been taken away by an armed group.
The CRA went as far as naming the Bab Tajura brigade as their kidnappers. They accused them of haggling with him for a price in exchange for Bibas handing over access to the country’s civil registry database.
However, other sources have rubbished the reason for his ‘’arrest’’, saying that he and another colleague are accused of corruption and misuse of the civil registry database and are simply being questioned.
In Libya’s current polarized political division, weak central authority and security apparatus, it is unclear what the truth is. However, what is clear is that both the CRA and its staff have been frequent targets as a result of their sensitive and pivotal position.
Equally, the incident is symbolic of Libya’s current state of affairs. If Bibas was to be arrested, it could have been handled through the use of uniformed police rather than the reported ‘‘militias’’. Thereafter, if he has any charges to face, the Public Prosecutor’s Office would be expected to make an official public announcement.
The CRA is the basis and database of births, deaths, marriages and identity in Libya, and hence the basis of the National ID Number, a family book (Libyan nationality) ID cards, driving licences and passports.
In January this year, the Beida CRA had, for example, announced that it had discovered more than 4,000 forged documents.
The importance of the control and integrity of the CRA database has national and global ramifications. The ability to adjust the database can give access to duplicate or false Libyan state-sector salaries and false IDs and passports for those with possible terrorist motives.
It will be recalled that the CRA has been at the centre of a huge political battle as both political wings in the Libyan conflict have attempted to take control of the organization.
This battle has been witnessed in Tripoli as various militias and political streams have attempted to infiltrate the CRA. In the first week of January, the CRA was attacked again by armed militias in an effort to put in place an alternative manager at its Tripoli headquarters in the Drebi district of the capital.
In October last year, another armed attack on the headquarters in Tripoli led to the death of its acting manager. In 2015, four CRA IT engineers (two Libyans and two foreigners) were kidnapped by armed militias in Tripoli in an effort to coerce them into giving their kidnappers access to the CRA database.
The internationally recognized government of the time said that it feared the kidnappers intended access to CRA database in order to issue forged IDs, passports or Libyan nationalities.