UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay addressed the UN Security Council on 25 January regarding the situation in Libya. Pillay expressed extreme concern regarding the conditions of detention in Libya faced by thousands of detainees, including a large number of Sub-Saharan African nationals, and called for all detention centres to be brought under the control of the Ministry of Justice and the General Prosecutor’s Office.
Amnesty International and MSF have both just released additional reports documenting ongoing torture of detainees in Libya.
Excerpts from Pillay’s statement:
“The Interim Government still does not exercise effective control over the revolutionary brigades and this has human rights repercussions in a number of areas. …
A related area that I am extremely concerned about is the conditions of detention and treatment of detainees held by various revolutionary brigades. The ICRC visited over 8,500 detainees in approximately 60 places of detention between March and December 2011. The majority of detainees are accused of being Gaddafi loyalists and include a large number of sub-Saharan African nationals. The lack of oversight by the central authorities creates an environment conducive to torture and ill-treatment. My staff have received alarming reports that this is happening in places of detention that they have visited.
It is therefore urgent that all detention centres are brought under the control of the Ministry of Justice and the General Prosecutor’s Office. Moreover, a structure and process for judicial screening of detainees should be put in place immediately so that those detainees held without any legal basis can be released while others receive a fair trial. … However, detainees continue to be held in unacceptable circumstances outside any legal framework or the protection of the state….”
Click here for Pillay’s Statement.
Click here for AI Statement.
Click here for MSF Statement.
From Refugees International, 7 October: “More than 600 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are effectively stranded at a port just outside the Libyan capital, and have been left to fend for themselves by Libyan authorities. Despite repeated attacks, harassment, and arbitrary arrests by Libyan gangs over the course of four months, they have received no protection from the National Transitional Council (NTC). Refugees International calls on the NTC and all local authorities – including the civilian councils in Janzour and Tripoli, and the Tripoli Military Council – to intervene immediately to protect the population at Sidi Bilal port and ensure their safe relocation to a temporary site. ‘The men in these camps are routinely harassed and accused of being pro-Gaddafi mercenaries, the women are targets of sexual abuse. All face intimidation by armed Libyan thugs who drive into the port at night firing guns into the air,’ said Matt Pennington, an advocate for Refugees International currently in Libya. ‘Of course, many migrants told us they don’t really want to leave Libya – since they have nothing to return to in their home countries. But even for those who want to stay in Libya, their situation is becoming intolerable.’ … So far, the UN World Food Programme has delivered one food drop to the imperilled migrants, while the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration have been attempting to negotiate safe relocation for those who want to stay and repatriation for those who want to return home. But what the population of Sidi Bilal most urgently needs is protection, and Libyan and UN authorities must act swiftly to provide it.”
Click here for full statement.
An interesting article on Huff Post by Prof. Carina Ray, Assistant Professor of African and Black Atlantic History, Fordham University:
“One of the biggest headlines to emerge in the early days of the battle for Libya was that Muammar Gaddafi had unleashed Black African mercenaries to put down the revolution. This turned out to be a largely bogus claim, but it nonetheless found traction among many ordinary Libyans. Why? The mercenary myth was successful in galvanizing popular support for the rebels because it contained a tiny of kernel of truth. More importantly, it tapped into the smoldering resentment that many Libyans harbored against Gaddafi’s gradual shift away from the Arab world in favor of Africa….”
Click here for full article.