Survivors of Libya prison massacre demand justice

abu salim massacre

A group representing families of the victims of Libya’s Abu Salim prison massacre protested July 1,Ā the 28th anniversary of the killings, decrying the failure to achieve justice in the case. The association urged “that the secrets of the crime be revealed, justice be established, retribution be imposed, and that everyone who participated in this horrific massacre receive their deserved punishment.” ThirteenĀ years after the fall of Libyan dictator Moammar Qaddafi’s regime, there has still been no legal judgment or even or serious investigationĀ in the case.

Few details haveĀ came to light about the 1996Ā massacre in Tripoli’sĀ central prison. The government denied the entire incident at the time, but Libyan groups outside the country asserted that 1,200 prisoners were killed. Qaddafi publicly acknowledged the killings in 2004, andĀ said that victims’ families hadĀ the right to know what took place. But the Libyan government would not cooperate with investigations launched by Human Rights Watch and other international groups.

A prisoner who was in Abu Salim at the time of the incident later found refuge in the United States, and was interviewed by Human Rights Watch. He stated that the incident began with a guard being taken hostage during an inmate protest over poor conditions, and hundreds of prisoners attempting to escapeā€”only to be gunned down by guards stationed on the rooftops. Negotiations ensued after the arrival of aĀ top security official,Ā Abdullah Sanussi, resulting in release of the captive guard. But supposed instigators of the protest were separated from the general population,Ā and summarily executed. The ex-prisoner reported havingĀ seen the guards using Kalashnikovs and hand grenades.

The informant was working in the kitchen at the prison, and said that the prepared meals, usually some 1,600 per day, dropped to someĀ 400 after the incidentā€”indicating a death toll of well over 1,000.

The Association of Families of Martyrs of the Abu Salim Prison Massacre organized an exhibition in Tripoli that includedĀ the victims’Ā belongings and personal photos. Libya’s Presidential Council still excludes families of the massacre victims from participation in national reconciliation dialogues.

From Jurist, July 2. Used with permission.

Note:Ā Abdullah Sanussi wasĀ wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes committed during repression of the Libyan uprising of 2011, until he sucessfully challenged those charges in 2014. He remains imprisoned in Libya. (The Guardian, Libya Observer)

Photo: Libya Observer