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FACTDROP: Amnesty International: Detainee abuse must stop in Libya


Amnesty International: Detainee abuse must stop in Libya

Πηγή: CNN
By Moni Basu
Oct 13 2011

(CNN) -- In late August, Libyan rebels sifted through the remnants of the life Moammar Gadhafi's fleeing supporters left behind, reveling in their capture of Tripoli. But at the same time, more sinister acts were taking place.

In a house in Abu Salim, rebels tied the hands of two brothers from the southern city of Sabha and beat them while taking them into custody.

"They beat us several times using their rifles," the elder brother told human rights group Amnesty International. "They also whipped us. When they transferred us to Mitiga (the airport detention facility), they forced us to walk on our knees to the vehicles while they insulted and beat us. They accused us of being mercenaries."

Such abuses of suspected Gadhafi loyalists were widespread, an Amnesty International delegation discovered. A report issued Thursday said armed militia detained as many as 2,500 people in the Tripoli area and that almost always, people were arrested without warrants and far from the oversight of the Ministry of Justice.

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty's North Africa researcher, told CNN Thursday that the arrests were more like abductions -- people taken from their homes by unidentified captors carrying out raids on suspected Gadhafi loyalists.

"We spoke to several guards," said Eltahawy, who heard the screams of detainees being whipped as she waited in one of the facilities. "They didn't see a problem to beat detainees to extract information. To them it was normal."

It was the way things had been done for four decades of Gadhafi's ironfisted rule. After visiting 11 facilities and interviewing 300 detainees, some of them women and children, the Amnesty team found that culture very much in place as Tripoli was falling.

A 17-year-old boy from Chad accused of rape and being a mercenary told Amnesty that he was taken from his home in August by armed men who held him in a school where they punched him and beat him with stick, belts, rifles and rubber cables:

"The beatings were so severe that I ended up telling them what they wanted to hear," he said. "I told them I raped women and killed Libyans."

In issuing the report Thursday, Amnesty International called on Libya's National Transitional Council to put an immediate end to such human rights violations.

The reality is that many of the armed militias are working outside the law, Eltahawy said. Libya's new leadership needs to do all it can to start off on the right foot.

"What the national council needs to do from the very beginning is to send a strong signal that this behavior will not be tolerated," she said.

Otherwise, there is a real risk that patterns of the past will be repeated in post-Gadhafi Libya. CNN reached out to the interim council but did not receive an immediate response.

Human Rights Watch has also documented detainee abuse that amounts to torture.

The global monitor issued a report earlier this month that urged Libya to ensure rule of law as it forges ahead in building a new nation.

Those interviewed told Human Rights Watch that they were beaten and given electric shocks. Some showed their scars as proof of their claims. One man wept openly in telling his story of abuse.

A detainee identified as Ahmed said this:

"They took an electric cable and started hitting me with it. They didn't use electricity, but they said that if I didn't talk, they would...They hit me with a butt of the Kalashnikov. They kicked me in the face and in the chest. One scratched me with the knife (bayonet) of the Kalashnikov."

Human Rights Watch said none of the detainees have ever faced a judge.

"After all that Libyans suffered in Moammar Gadhafi's jails, it's disheartening that some of the new authorities are subjecting detainees to arbitrary arrest and beatings today," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Libya has an obligation to prevent torture and abuse, Amnesty International said.

Libyan authorities, the group said, cannot allow such abuses to go on simply because the nation is in a transitional phase. If they do, said the human rights activists, Libya's new leadership will be no better than the old.

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