x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Libya militias torturing detained Qaddafi loyalists, human-rights groups say

Amnesty International said despite promises, Libya's new rulers have made "no progress to stop the use of torture", as Doctors Without Borders suspended its work in the third-largest city of Misurata over similar claims.

TRIPOLI // Several Qaddafi loyalists have been tortured and some have died in detention centres run by armed militias, human-rights groups said yesterday.

Amnesty International said despite promises, Libya's new rulers have made "no progress to stop the use of torture", as Doctors Without Borders suspended its work in the third-largest city of Misurata over similar claims.

Their accusations come after a top UN official raised concerns that militias comprising former rebels who helped topple the dictator Muammar Qaddafi were posing increasing security risk as they regularly clashed with each other.

"Several detainees have died after being subjected to torture in Libya in recent weeks and months amid widespread torture and ill-treatment of suspected pro-Qaddafi fighters and loyalists," Amnesty said.

It said its delegates met detainees held in Tripoli, in Misurata and in smaller towns such as Ghariyan who showed visible signs of torture inflicted in recent days and weeks.

"The torture is being carried out by officially recognised military and security entities, as well by a multitude of armed militias operating outside any legal framework."

Donatella Rouvera, a senior adviser at London-based Amnesty, said in the group's statement that it was "horrifying to find that there has been no progress to stop the use of torture".

"We are not aware of any proper investigations into cases of torture," she said.

Detainees told Amnesty they had been beaten for hours with whips, cables, plastic hoses, metal chains, bars, wooden sticks and given electric shocks.

The rights watchdog said the detainees, both Libyans and foreigners from sub-Saharan Africa, were tortured soon after they were seized by militias in officially recognised detention centres in places such as Misurata.

Misurata withstood a devastating siege by Qaddafi's forces during last year's uprising. Its fighters later unleashed a fierce attack on the dictator's hometown of Sirte, where he was killed on October 20.

"Several detainees have died in the custody of armed militias in and around Tripoli and Misurata in circumstances that suggest torture," Amnesty said.

Ms Rouvera said the issue was aggravated as the police and judiciary remained "dysfunctional" across Libya.

Doctors Without Borders suspended its work in Misurata because people were being tortured.

"Detainees in the Libyan city of Misurata are being tortured and denied urgent medical care, leading the international medical humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to suspend its operations in detention centres in Misurata," the group said, referring to itself by its French name.

It said its doctors were increasingly confronted with patients who suffered injuries caused by "torture" during questioning.

"The interrogations were held outside the detention centres," it said.

The group's general director, Christopher Stokes, said some officials have sought to exploit and obstruct its work in Misurata.

"Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable."

On Wednesday, the UN special representative in Libya, Ian Martin, expressed concern about the militias which he said were not under the control of the interim government.

Speaking to the UN Security Council, Mr Martin said fighting in Bani Walid this week - at one stage blamed on Qaddafi loyalists - had been caused by a clash between residents and a revolutionary brigade unit.

"Although authorities have successfully contained these and other more minor incidents that continue to take place across the country on a regular basis, there is the ever-present possibility that similar outbreaks of violence could escalate," he said.

Libya's new authorities are struggling to reintegrate tens of thousands of these militia fighters into the army and police.