[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Sunday expressed concern [press release] over the arrests of dozens of civilians by Libyan opposition authorities. HRW called on the National Transitional Council (NTC), the opposition ruling body in Libya with de facto control over eastern Libya, to provide civilian detainees with full due process rights, access to counsel, and the ability to challenge their detention before independent judicial authorities. HRW also called on the NTC to reign in the various volunteer security groups under a centralized civilian authority that may also investigate alleged abuses of detainees. The rights group, which was given unrestricted access to rebel-held detainees, documented four civilian detainees alleging physical abuse during capture, and one civilian detained by a volunteer security group that was apparently tortured to death while in custody. HRW stated:
There is no excuse to delay the rule of law in areas under opposition control. The authorities should rein in volunteer security groups, establish a clear civilian authority for criminal justice, and make sure detainees get full due process rights. The people of Libya are all too familiar with arbitrary arrests and detention without charge from four decades of Muammar Gaddafi’s rule. The opposition authorities should reject that abusive legacy and create a legal framework to ensure respect for Libyan and international law.
NTC officials say it recognizes the problems and is working to correct them. Opposition forces are estimated to have 330 people in custody, some of which were fighters loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], and others were civilians suspected of pro-Gaddafi activities.
On the other side of the conflict, a three-person commission for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] appointed to investigate violence in Libya published a report Wednesday finding that Gaddafi’s forces have committed crimes against humanity [JURIST report] and war crimes under orders from Gaddafi and other high-ranking officials. The commission’s 92-page report said Libyan authorities have committed crimes against humanity such as acts constituting murder, imprisonment, and other severe deprivations of physical liberties, torture, forced disappearances, and rape “as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population with knowledge of the attack.” Last month, International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official websites] announced he is seeking arrest warrants for Gaddafi [JURIST report] and two others in his inner circle on charges of crimes against humanity.