Thursday, January 26, 2012

Libya / United Nations / Arbitrary Imprisonment / Torture

(Abdullah Doma/AFP/Getty Images)
Libya: UN Alarmed over Failure to Stop Torture of Detainees
By Damien McElroy
The Telegraph, January 26, 2012
"The UN has expressed its alarm over the failure of the Libyan government to disarm militias and stop widespread torture of the thousands of people held in arbitrary detention. The warning that human rights abuses were rampant in Libya came as Medicins San Frontieres, the medical charity, said it was suspending its operations in detention centres in the city of Misurata after encountering scores of torture victims. Ian Martin, the UN envoy for Libya, said that the new Libyan authorities were failing to bring armed factions under control. As a result the law of gun dominated a country scarred by the dictatorship of Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Mr. Martin blame militias for fatal clashes around the country. 'The former regime may have been toppled, but the harsh reality is that the Libyan people continue to have to live with its deep-rooted legacy,' said Mr. Martin. There were 'weak, at times absent, state institutions, coupled with the long absence of political parties and civil society organisations, which render the country's transition more difficult'. He warned that the clashes could escalate. The UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said she had serious concerns over the fate of the 8,500 prisoners held in around 60 centres by revolutionary forces that were not accountable to a national government. 'The majority of detainees are accused of being Gaddafi loyalists and include a large number of sub-saharan, African nationals,' she said. 'The lack of oversight by the central authority creates an environment conducive to torture and ill treatment.'
The perils facing Libyan prisoners were exposed by MSF which said its doctors had treated 115 prisoners that they believed had been tortured in just one city. The body said it would not collude with the abusive regime in the city. 'Some officials have sought to exploit and obstruct MSF's medical work,' says MSF General Director Christopher Stokes. 'Patients were brought to us for medical care between interrogation sessions, so that they would be fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable. Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions.' 'My staff have received alarming reports that this is happening in places of detention they have visited.' Miss Pillay also reviewed the investigations of the Human Rights Council's Commission of Inquiry which is investigating allegations of war crime by the Nato-led alliance that backed the uprising against Gaddafi. She said she believed that Nato planners had done their utmost to avoid killing civilians. 'Information so far indicates that Nato made efforts to keep civilian casualties at a minimum,' she said. 'But where civilians have been killed and injured, the Alliance should disclose information about all such events and about remedial actions undertaken.'"
[n.b. This is the complete text of the dispatch. It is good to see Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, taking the lead on this, as she did on the intervention against Ghadafi. I would say it is not a case of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss," but rather "meet the no boss." There is a desperate lack of capacity and consensus in the new Libyan regime, and as a result, the thousands of mostly sub-Saharan African prisoners (I think exclusively male) remain subject to terrible atrocities and abuses, months after the conflict's supposed end.]

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Please be constructive in your comments. - AJ