LIBYA (OBSERVATORY) – Armed groups in Libya are killing and torturing detainees in jails of thousands of illegally held civilians, some of whom are nominally under government control, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
Successive governments in Tripoli have allowed armed groups to arrest dissidents, activists, journalists and politicians who paid wages to fighters and supplied them with uniforms and uniforms.
“As a result, the influence of armed groups has grown uncontrollably and has remained virtually ungoverned by the government,” the UN Human Rights Office and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMA) said in a report.
“Men, women and children in various parts of Libya are arbitrarily arrested or deprived of liberty illegally based on their tribal or family ties or perceptions of their political affiliations,” the report said.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein, condemned the “horrendous violations” and “massive terror”.
The Emir urged the authorities to release the detainees without trial and to prosecute for crimes including torture, kidnapping and execution as a step towards a return to the rule of law.
Many detainees have been detained without charge or trial since the 2011 revolution that overthrew Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s rule, the report said.
A disputed election in 2014 has divided the country between rival political and military factions in the west and east of the country. Political unrest and armed conflict have led to economic collapse and have given way to armed groups, including hardline Islamist groups.
“Torture and systematic ill-treatment in detention facilities throughout Libya, especially during periods of first detention during interrogations,” the UN said.
The report, based on interviews and visits to prisons, legal records, forensic records and documented evidence in photographs and video recordings, said the methods of torture included beatings with metal bars, skin and electric shocks.
According to the report, the official prisons under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior include about 6,500 prisoners and there are thousands of others in facilities that are nominally under government control but run by armed groups.
The Deterrent Force, which is allied to the National Reconciliation Government, the most likely force in western Libya, is running a prison in Tripoli’s 2,600-strong Matteka air base.
“The detainees are subjected to torture, extrajudicial killings and denial of adequate medical care and difficult living conditions,” the UN said.
At least 37 bodies bearing signs of torture were taken to Tripoli hospitals last year, the report said.
In the east, some 1,800 prisoners are held in Kweifio, where the United Nations has documented torture and inhumane conditions, including in a sector run by the Libyan National Army, led by Khalifa Haftar.
The bodies of people arrested by armed groups were found in the streets and garbage dumps in Benghazi, many of which bore traces of torture and gunfire.