Black Libyan tortured to death during detention: Amnesty

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Published Thursday, April 19, 2012

Amnesty International demanded on Thursday that the Libyan government investigate abuses against members of a black community, after a man was tortured to death in detention.

The body of Barnous Bous’a, a member of the persecuted Tawargha tribe, was delivered to his family on 16 April covered with bruises and cuts, including an open wound to the back of the head, the rights group said.

The 44-year-old father of two was a civilian who fled his home in western Libya during the NATO-led conflict last year, settling in Sirte, Amnesty said.

He was arrested by a militia in October 2011 and reportedly held at a detention facility under the control of Misrata’s Security Committee.

Amnesty International has documented more than a dozen deaths in custody at the hands of armed militias since September 2011, with a high proportion of the victims Tawarghas, amid widespread torture of suspected Gaddafi loyalists and soldiers.

“This brutal death highlights the continuing dangers to detainees in the new Libya,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

“How many more victims will die from torture until the authorities realize the gravity of the situation, and deliver on their promises of investigating, prosecuting and putting an end to such crimes?”

The entire population of the city of Tawargha, some 30,000 people, has suffered abuses at the hands of armed militias in revenge for their town’s perceived loyalty to the former government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Militias from Misrata drove out the population in August 2011, looting and burning down homes.

Since then, armed militias have been hunting Tawarghas across Libya, snatching men from camps for displaced people, homes, checkpoints and even hospitals.

Those abducted are brought back to detention centers in Misrata, where they are routinely tortured, in some cases to death, Amnesty said.

One relative pleaded to Amnesty International: “We are so afraid for the safety of all Tawarghas once they are taken to Misrata. We cannot bear to hear more bad news…We are not safe anywhere, we can’t leave home, we are trapped. If we go out, we risk arrest too. We can’t even leave and search for our relatives.”

The rights group condemned the lack of government action, and called on the National Transitional Council (NTC) to apply the rule of law.

“The leadership in Misratah is turning a blind eye to the mounting evidence of abuses committed at the hands of Misratah militias, arguing that only ‘individual mistakes’ take place,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

“It is imperative that the NTC now reins in these militias, investigates all abuses and prosecutes those responsible – on all sides – in accordance with international law," she added.

Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) pulled out of Misrata in January, citing rampant and systematic torture of detainees in the city.

The NTC denied accusations of torture at the time, and have so far failed to rein in repressive methods commonly deployed during the era of Gaddafi.

Amnesty's statement comes as the International Criminal Court (ICC) is pressuring the NTC to hand Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the high-profile son of the fallen dictator, to The Hague, suggesting that Libya is unfit to hold a fair trial.

(Al-Akhbar)

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