Armed militias operating across Libya are committing widespread human rights abuses with impunity, warned Amnesty International in a new report released yesterday.
The report, Militias threaten hopes for new Libya, comes a year on from the start of the February 2011 NATO-backed counter-revolution.
It documents widespread and serious abuses, including war crimes, by a multitude of militias against suspected Gadaffi loyalists, with cases of people being unlawfully detained and tortured – sometimes to death.
Amnesty said: ‘African migrants and refugees have also been targeted, and revenge attacks have been carried out, forcibly displacing entire communities – while the authorities have done nothing to investigate the abuses and hold those responsible to account.’
Amnesty International Senior Crisis Response Adviser Donatella Rovera said: ‘Militias in Libya are largely out of control and the blanket impunity they enjoy only encourages further abuses and perpetuates instability and insecurity.’
In January and early February 2012, Amnesty delegates visited 11 detention facilities used by various militias in Tripoli, Zawiya, the Western Mountains, Misratah, Sirte and Benghazi.
At ten of the locations detainees said they had been tortured or ill-treated there, and showed Amnesty injuries resulting from recent abuse.
Several detainees said they had ‘confessed’ to rape, killings and other crimes they had not committed just to end the torture.
Individuals held in and around Tripoli, Gharyan, Misratah, Sirte and Zawiya told Amnesty they had been suspended in contorted positions; beaten for hours with whips, cables, plastic hoses, metal chains and bars, and wooden sticks; and given electric shocks with live wires and taser-like electro-shock weapons.
An older detainee from Tawargha was cowering, squatting against the wall, and crying as he was being kicked and threatened by a militia member who told Amnesty that ‘those from Tawargha will not be released or we’ll kill them’.
At least 12 detainees held by militias have died after being tortured since September. Their bodies were covered in bruises, wounds and cuts and some had had fingernails or toenails pulled out.
Not a single effective investigation is known to have been carried out into cases of torture.
No investigations have been carried out either into other grave abuses, such as the extrajudicial execution of detainees and other war crimes, including the killing of some 65 people whose bodies were found on October 23 in a hotel in Sirte which served as a base for opposition fighters from Misratah.
Militias from Misratah drove out the entire population of Tawargha, some 30,000 people, and looted and burned down their homes.