Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] said [press release] Wednesday that thousands of people, including children, are being arbitrarily detained in Libya [report]. The report highlights torture and other forms of ill-treatment in four prisons in Tripoli and Misrata, which were personally visited by HRW representatives. The report is based upon interviews conducted by HRW with 120 detainees, none of whom have been charged with a crime or granted the opportunity to appear before a judge. According to HRW, the detainees provided “credible and consistent” accounts of mistreatment, signs of which were were apparently visible to HRW representatives. These signs included beatings on the soles of the feet with plastic pipe, electrical cable, chains, sticks, fists, and even horsewhips; suspension from doors or ceilings for hours; electrical shocks; and solitary confinement. Stating that “Prolonged detention without judicial reviews is a grave violation of international law and may amount to a crime against humanity,” HRW urged the UN Security Council (UNSC) [official website] to increase pressure on Libya to order the immediate release of all those who have been wrongfully detained. HRW has also called upon the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda [official websites], to open an investigation into the arbitrary detention situation in Libya.
Earlier this month Bensouda said that peace and stability is in sight [JURIST report] for Libya, although she did qualify her statement with concern about large scale crimes continuing to be committed by various parties in the Libya conflict. The Libya conflict [JURIST backgrounder] has resulted in widespread violence and destruction within the country. The violence has prompted the UN and the international community to step in and take action. In April the UN Support Mission in Libya strongly condemned [JURIST report] the continuous airstrikes on the town of Zintan, noting a high danger to civilians. In July the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Bernardino León, condemned [UN News Centre report] the rising hostilities in Benghazi, which has taken a heavy toll on the civilians in the area. In her statement last month, Bensouda had stressed the need for adequate funding from the UNSC and assistance from other UN Member States to respond to the crimes and continue working towards peace in Libya.