Libyan militias torturing prisoners to death

 A new report from Amnesty International reveals that Libyan militias have tortured at least 20 people to death in the last 11 months. 


Libya: rule of law or rule of militias?, shows that nearly a year after Tripoli fell to the revolutionary fighters (thuwwar) thousands of people have been detained, tortured or forced from their homes by militias. Many of those responsible for unlawful killings have escaped justice, casting a shadow over the country’s first national elections since the fall of al-Gaddafi’s regime on 7 July.


During a visit to Libya in May and June, Amnesty International found that hundreds of armed militias are refusing to disarm or to join the national army or police force. The Ministry of Interior told the organisation that it has been able to dismantle four militias in Tripoli, a tiny proportion of the total number.


Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said: “It is deeply depressing that after so many months, the authorities have failed to break the stranglehold of the militias on Libyan security. Ordinary Libyans are the ones paying the price.


“Calls for an end to injustice were what led to the ‘17 February revolution’ in the first place. Without immediate action, there is a very real danger Libya could end up reproducing the worst characteristics of the previous four decades of repression.


“The new Libyan government has to make clear it will bring those who have committed human rights abuses to justice – whatever their rank or affiliation.”


Abuse of detainees and deaths in custody

Militias continue to arrest people and hold an estimated 4,000 detainees in secret and unofficial detention facilities despite some progress in bringing these facilities under central control. Some have been held without charge for a year.


Abuse of detainees, particularly those recently arrested, continues. During its most recent visit an Amnesty International mission found evidence of beatings and other abuse - in some cases amounting to torture - in 12 of the 15 detention centres where it was able to interview detainees in private.


Common methods of torture reported include suspension in contorted positions and prolonged beatings with various objects including metal bars and chains, electric cables, wooden sticks, plastic hoses, water pipes, and rifle-butts; and electric shocks.


Amnesty International has detailed information on at least 20 cases of death in custody as a result of torture by militias since late August 2011.


Hasna’s story

Hasna Sheeb, aged 31, was accused of being an al-Gaddafi loyalist. She was detained in October last year. During her detention she was given electric shocks, beaten, whipped until she lost consciousness and had urine poured over her. The guards threatened to rape her mother if she did not confess.


Hasna was released without charge after three days and has since submitted complaints through a range of channels. She was examined by a forensic pathologist, whose report corroborated her testimony. 


No meaningful action appears to have been taken to investigate her complaint. Instead she has received a string of anonymous threatening phones calls, as well as a call in June from the person who arrested her. In March, her flat was fired on by unknown attackers in the middle of the night. 



Our researcher Diana Eltahawy talks about what she found in Libya