Torture rampant in 'new' Libya

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An injured man from Assabia who says he was tortured at the hands of the Gharyan city forces during skirmishes between the two cities earlier this month, lies in a hospital in Tripoli 19 January 2012.

Published Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An injured man from Assabia who says he was tortured at the hands of the Gharyan city forces during skirmishes between the two cities earlier this month, lies in a hospital in Tripoli January 19, 2012.Ibrahim Sadeq Khalifa, a 20-year-old former soldier in Muammar Gaddafi's army, bears a scar above his collar bone.

When prodded by an AFP journalist, he reveals it is from a cigarette burn inflicted on him by his captors, ex-rebels now ruling the country.

"It is from a cigarette burn. The thuwar (anti-Gaddafi revolutionaries) did that," he said, speaking hesitatingly as jailor Ibrahim Beatelmal approached.

Khalifa is no angel. He participated in a gruesome massacre of roughly 150 men in Tripoli as the city fell to rebels.

"I threw grenades on them after my colleagues doused them in petrol. We then locked the garage and left. We burnt them alive," Khalifa said, of the massacre that he and four other Gaddafi soldiers carried out.

Khalifa admits that those killed by him and his comrades in the Khalit al-Farjan area of Tripoli on the afternoon of August 22 were civilians.

He was captured by former rebels from his home in Tajura, a suburb of Tripoli, three days later, when the city was overrun by anti-Gaddafi fighters.

Shortly afterwards, rebel leaders spoke of the murder of more than 150 people in the capital.

"They were about 150 men from all age groups. They were huddled together in the garage," Khalifa said, adding that he was following the orders of his superior officer.

"Yes I did it. I did what I was ordered to do by my officer in charge. When I went home that night, I could not sleep. I regret what I did," said Khalifa, dressed in a blue T-shirt and tracksuit.

He was transferred on September 5 to the Misrata prison after spending about two weeks with the ex-rebels, who he said beat him repeatedly.

Prisons in Misrata, some run by the new army and others by former rebels, have gained notoriety after human rights groups accused them of conducting widespread torture of pro-Gaddafi men.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) announced they were pulling out of prisons in Misrata last week, citing rampant torture.

MSF claimed detainees were brought to them in the midst of interrogation in order to make them healthy for further torture.

"Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for more interrogation," MSF General Director Christopher Stokes said in a statement.

"This is unacceptable. Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions."

The Libyan government, heralded as a success story in the West after the overthrow of Gaddafi, rejected MSF's claims, saying torture was not a policy of the National Transitional Council (NTC).

"As a government, it is not our policy at all to commit torture because we, the Libyan people, suffered under these policies and we strongly reject it," Libyan Foreign Minister Ashour bin Khayyal said.

Despite this assertion, Khayyal told Reuters in Addis Ababa that former fighters for Gaddafi "will now receive the treatment they deserve," without clarifying his comments.

Khayyal denied his government had knowledge of torture, but MSF said it had informed the NTC, the army, as well as officials in Misrata of continued torture in prisons.

"No action was taken," said Stokes. "We have therefore come to the decision to suspend our medical activities in the detention centers."

MSF was not alone in highlighting the proliferation of torture in Libyan prisons, with Amnesty International saying on Thursday it had evidence of several detainees dying after being subjected to torture, including some in Misrata.

It quoted one man who said he had been tortured earlier this month in the headquarters of Misrata security forces.

"They took me for interrogation upstairs. Five men in plain clothes took turns beating and whipping me," Amnesty quoted the man as saying.

"They suspended me from the top of the door by my wrists for about an hour and kept beating me. They also kicked me."

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay, speaking to the Security Council in New York on Wednesday, said that detainees from Libya's civil war held by revolutionary brigades continue to be subjected to torture despite efforts by the provisional government to address the issue.

Revelations of widespread torture in Libya is troubling for the NTC, given its declaration to break with the past of repressive methods under Gaddafi's 40-year reign.

Libya's pro-democracy revolution quickly descended into a civil war when Gaddafi forces attempted to wipe out opponents by force, prompting Western intervention.

With foreign intervention, however, came an influx of weapons to a variety of tribes and militias, leaving Libya at the behest of rival militias, some still armed with heavy weaponry.

The proliferation of militias has produced a sense of lawlessness in parts of the country, and as evident in the wide use of torture, a return to old methods of repression.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP, Reuters)

Comments

Apologies for the late comment. The staff of Al-Akhbar English should add a note to the article. "He participated" should have "claims to have" in the middle, and Mr. Khalifah's story has problems. He cites the wrong massacre date (Aug 22 instead of 23), and says he burned people alive (wrong - the rest don't cite fire, another soldier says burning was only days later, and smoke was still rising on the 28th). He's not the only lying witness, but one of the many among the several dozen on record with such horribly flawed "memories" it's obvious.

The crime was done by the rebels, and that's why the "witnesses" all contradict each other.

How do you get Khalifah and now several other soldiers to confess to a fake, death penalty crime? Who knows. Maybe drugs, psychological abuse, and needles under the fingernails like with "Gaddafi's girl executioner," self-described/"confessed" until her recent escape from rebel control...

all whitewashing of NATO goals. They do not give a damn about "wipe out opponents by force" if it is done by them or by their lackeys. Only NON-lackeys are in danger, even if there is NO proof for such accusations, everything else is just a sham

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