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Human Rights Watch reports Libya rebels torturing detainees

By Katerina Nikolas     Oct 2, 2011 in World
Arbitary arrests of those suspected of being pro-Gaddafi are resulting in thousands of prisoners being detained. A report by Human Rights Watch reveals that they are subjected to torture equal to that meted out under the Gaddafi regime.
Abu Salim Prison in Tripoli was infamous during the years of Gaddafi rule. The notorious prison was the scene of the 1996 massacre where 1,200 prisoners were slaughtered. Through the years its inmates were subjected to torture, beatings and electric shocks. On Aug. 24 the prison was liberated by rebel fighters and now stands empty. The prisoners detained by rebel troops, often arbitrarily without any formal charges, are imprisoned elsewhere.
Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) has failed to take control of its rebel fighters. The worst aspects of human rights abuses that Gaddafi represented are being re-created in detention centers controlled by rebel fighters who imprison and torture those suspected of being pro-Gaddafi loyalists, former Gaddafi soldiers or officials, suspected criminals, black Africans and civilians from loyalist towns. According to the New York Times, fighters have detained thousands of people, including women and children.
Human Rights Watch (HMW) released a report on Friday that concluded the NTC “should work to stop militia groups from making arbitrary arrests and abusing detainees in prisons and makeshift detention facilities across western Libya.” The group visited 20 detention centers in Tripoli, interviewed 53 prisoners, and reported on the use of torture against detainees. Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch said “After all that Libyans suffered in Muammar Gaddafi’s jails, it’s disheartening that some of the new authorities are subjecting detainees to arbitrary arrest and beatings today,” adding “The NTC owes it to the people of Libya to show that they will institute the rule of law from the start.”Of the prisoners questioned by HRW none had been presented before a judge or had access to lawyers. They were held in overcrowded conditions and some detainees stated they had been subject to electric shocks, beatings on the soles of their feet (falaga), and beatings on a daily basis. Africans from the sub-Sahara reported they are used as forced labour. The NTC has no idea how many persons are detained under the new regime but HRW report that on Sept 27 there were 1,500 prisoners held in just two wings of Jdeida prison. Members of HMR bore witness to scars, welts, cigarette burns and other evidence of torture carried by detainees. Conditions are poor and unsanitary and inmates complain of hunger.
The report by HMR states the International Criminal Court has the jurisdiction to prosecute those involved in “crimes against humanity of torture or imprisonment in violation of international law.” Whilst the NTC does little to address the matter, then the torture can be considered as part of state policy. Sky News points out that the NTC lacks the control to rein in the behaviour of military sectors that dismiss that their authority which is deemed questionable by many in the face of political infighting and their inability to form a government.
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