Human Rights Watch: Libya’s electoral candidates must address torture, illegal detention

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling for Libya’s electoral candidates to discuss their attitudes and plans to address the country’s widespread use of illegal detention and torture.

HRW investigations have revealed that people who are officially detained are not charged with criminal offenses or brought before judges. The international advocacy NGO is pressuring the campaign to address its judicial policies and structure, and improve on the poor human rights situation that developed under Muammar Gaddafi.

Inquiries into torture and detention conditions reveal a grim environment where the process of detainment is often highly disorganized and poorly documented; of about 3,000 detainees, only 194 have had court trials. However, these numbers only reflect those held by the judicial police; the interior ministry and military police are in possession of other detainees, including those held in secret locations.

International law requires that prisoners must be brought before a judge within a year of being detained. In Libya, “most have been denied access to lawyers, and in many cases, there appears to be no legal basis for their detention.” At the moment, in a political atmosphere fraught with tension, HRW says Libyan officials and militia commanders are hesitant to transfer any detainees, preferring instead to hold them until justice can be properly served or to use them as “bargaining chips for power.”

There is also indication of widespread torture and ill-treatment of prisoners. The government has been slow to respond to cases of death and violence in detention facilities or allegations of torture.

HRW has been a strong advocate for the implementation of accountability mechanisms in regards to torture and rights violations, but as of yet, Libya has been slow to respond. In fact, “recent legislation passed by Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council seems intended to shield militia members from justice” and new Law 38 also has the capability to protect perpetrators of torture and other violations of Libyan law.

Read full HRW article here.

Photo: By Al Jazeera English (A frontline parade) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons