Libya: revolutionary regime hit by torture claims

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay charged Jan. 27 that Libya’s transitional government must take control of all makeshift prisons to prevent further atrocities against detainees. Pillay says various brigades are holding as many as 8,000 prisoners in 60 detention centers around the country. Pillay added that she is particularly concerned about Black African detainees who are apparently assumed automatically to be Qaddafi-loyalist fighters. She said detainees have been subject to “torture, extrajudicial executions, rape of both men and women.” Pillay’s statement follows a statement by Amnesty International that “several detainees have died after being subjected to torture in Libya in recent weeks and months… The torture is being carried out by officially recognized military and security entities as well by a multitude of armed militias operating outside any legal framework.” Detainees told Amnesty they had been beaten for hours with whips, cables, plastic hoses, metal chains, bars, wooden sticks and given electric shocks.

“After all the promises to get detention centers under control, it is horrifying to find that there has been no progress to stop the use of torture,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis adviser. “We are not aware of any proper investigations into cases of torture, and neither the survivors or relatives of those who have died in detention have had any recourse to justice or redress for what they have suffered.”

Medicins San Frontieres announced this week it had pulled its staff out of detention facilities in Misrata after witnessing more than 100 cases of torture against detainees. MSF said it was withdrawing staff because it was effectively keeping prisoners alive so that authorities could continue to torture them. ”Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for more interrogation,” said MSF’s Christopher Stokes. ”This is unacceptable. Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions.” (SMH, Jan. 28; AP, Jan. 27; AI, The Telegraph, Jan. 26)

See our last posts on Libya and the Arab revolutions.