The country that witnessed the Arab world’s most sweeping revolution is foundering. So is its capital, where a semblance of normality has returned after the chaotic days of the fall of Tripoli last August. But no one would consider a city ordinary where militiamen tortured to death an urbane former diplomat two weeks ago, where hundreds of refugees deemed loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi waited hopelessly in a camp and where a government official acknowledged that “freedom is a problem.” Much about the scene on Wednesday was lamentable, perhaps because the discord was so commonplace…

The militias are proving to be the scourge of the revolution’s aftermath. Though they have dismantled most of their checkpoints in the capital, they remain a force, here and elsewhere. A Human Rights Watch researcher estimated there are 250 separate militias in the coastal city of Misurata, the scene of perhaps the fiercest battle of the revolution. In recent months those militias have become the most loathed in the country.

Residents say some of the fighters have sought to preserve law and order in the midst of government helplessness. Militias from Benghazi and Zintan are trying to protect a refugee camp of 1,500 people driven from their homes in Tawergha by fighters from Misurata, who bitterly blamed them for aiding Colonel Qaddafi’s assault on their town. Since the Tawerghans arrived in the camp, which once housed Turkish construction workers in Tripoli, Misurata militiamen have staged raids five or six times there despite the presence of the other militias, detaining dozens, many of them still in custody.