Tripoli, 5 February 2013:
Libya has made no progress with regard to detention centres in the last year, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“The government acknowledges that about 8,000 people are being detained across Libya, but only about 5,600 of these are in facilities controlled to some degree by the military or the Interior and Justice ministries,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director of HRW, said today, Wednesday, at a press conference in Tripoli.
Stork said that many of these people were being detained illegally and that most had been held for over a year. The figure, he said, appeared to be the same as this time last year.
He said that during 2012 HRW had documented torture and deaths in detention centres run by both armed militias and various Supreme Security Committees (SSC) which operate nominally under the Interior Ministry.
The exact number of deaths is not known and there is no official list recording the names of detainees.
“The militias still holding detainees need to know that their conduct is a clear violation of Libyan law and they can be held accountable,” Stork said. He added that a justice deficit in the country was nowhere more apparent than in the case of detainees.
Hanan Salah, from HRW Libya, said “detainees not under state control need to be moved to facilities that are run by the government.”
She said that the government also needed to conduct judicial reviews on detainees and ensure fair trials. “If they were engaged in committing crimes, they must be given access to lawyers and taken to a court of law. If they are innocent, they need to be released,” said Salah.
She also pointed out that full investigations were needed into cases of the abuse of detainees and that those in charge should face trial.
Some positive news came, however, from the Minister of Justice, Salah Marghani, who was unable to attend the conference but sent a written statement.
“The Ministry has embarked on a policy that includes taking the necessary measures to end all violations and bring detention places under actual and full control of the judicial police,” Marghani said.
Detention centres outside the control of the Ministry of Justice, he said, would be criminalised.
Marghani said that Ministry aimed to take control of all detainees in Misrata in a new correction facility, which would be under the full control of the judicial police. He said this would be done by mid-May and that this model could be replicated elsewhere.
There will also be staff increases, with 24 prosecutors transferred from Eastern Libya to Misrata and, Marghani said, thousands of new recruits to the police would be trained to control judicial facilities.
Marghani also pointed out that there had been a drop “of reported torture, and deaths under torture in the first month of 2013, as well as the gradual taking over of detention centres.”
At the end of the conference, Stork said that whilst HRW was “not happy about the current situation in Libya, it was optimistic.” [/restrict]