Torture, Rape in Prisons Under Libya’s New Government

January 28, 2012  

In Libya its a case of “meet the new boss; same as the old boss.”

The UN’s top human rights official said Friday that Libya’s transitional government must take control of its prisons and prevent further atrocities against detainees.

“There’s torture, extrajudicial executions, rape of both men and women,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the Associated Press.

Pillay says she is particularly concerned about sub-Saharan African detainees whom the brigades automatically brand as fighters for the late Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

Briefing the UN Security Council about Libya on Wednesday, she demanded action from the world community.

“Something has to be done immediately to assist the authorities for the state to take control of these detention centers,” she said.

Former rebel groups are holding as many as 8,000 prisoners in 60 makeshift detention centers around the country.

The aid group Doctors Without Borders suspended its work in prisons in the Libyan city of Misrata on Thursday because it said torture was so rampant that some detainees were brought for care only to make them fit for further interrogation.

Amnesty International said Thursday it had recorded widespread prisoner abuse in other cities that led to the deaths of several inmates.

The allegations, made some three months after Qaddafi was captured and summarily murdered in the field by rebel fighters, are an embarrassment for Libya’s National Transitional Council.

NTC officials have been struggling to hold a nation divided by region, sect, and tribe together while at the same time trying to paint the new regime as better than the period of Qaddafi’s despotic rule, also characterized by a cult of personality.

A major obstacle to transitioning Libya to a stable, civilian government has been the refusal of the disparate rebel groups who overthrew Qaddafi to accept central military authority.

Last week, fighters from the infamous Qaddafi-loyalist Brigade 93 drove revolutionary forces out of the former Qaddafi stronghold of Bani Walid, raising serious questions about the new regime’s grip on the country.

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