Families of Libya prison massacre victims protest for justice 28 years after News
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Families of Libya prison massacre victims protest for justice 28 years after

A group representing families of Libya’s Abu Salim Prison Massacre victims protested Monday on the 28th anniversary of the killings over the failure to achieve justice in the case. The association urged “that the secrets of the crime be revealed, justice be established, retribution be imposed, and that everyone who participated in this horrific massacre receive their deserved punishment,” according to the Libya Observer. 13 years after the fall of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, under which the massacre was committed, there is still no legal judgment in the case.

The massacre itself occurred in 1996. Few details regarding the event came to light, and the government denied the entire incident, but Libyan groups outside the country stated that 1,200 prisoners were killed, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). Gaddafi publicly acknowledged the killings in 2004. Following this, investigations were launched into the killings, which turned out to be unsuccessful as the Libyan government would not cooperate and refused to share information.

A prisoner who was in the Abu Salim prison at the time found refuge in the United States and was interviewed by Human Rights Watch. He stated that the massacre started with a guard being taken hostage and hundreds of prisoners escaping as a protest to the poor living conditions and restricted family visits. These escaped prisoners were shot at by the guards until a top security official Abdullah Sanussi arrived. Following the arrival, negotiations started between the prisoners and the security personnel, which led to the release of guards in return for the promise of better clothing. This resulted in many prisoners being divided and moved to separate parts of the prison compound, where they were reportedly later shot at. The ex-prisoner reports to have seen the shooters using Kalashnikovs and hand grenades.

As he was working in the kitchen at the prison, he calculated the prepared meals that were usually 1,600 to 1,700 per day which the next week turned into roughly 400 portions.

The Association of Families of Martyrs of the Abu Salim Prison Massacre organized an exhibition that includes the victims’ belongings and personal photos. Libya’s Presidential Council still excludes families from participation in national reconciliation dialogues.