News24

Libya 'can overcome 1996 prison massacre'

2012-06-27 15:13

Tripoli - Libyans can finally commemorate the anniversary of the 1996 Abu Slim prison massacre without fear of repression, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday, urging the authorities to carry out justice.

"Sixteen years after the mass killing in Abu Slim prison, Libyans can finally hope for justice," HRW special advisor Fred Abrahams said.

"This means finding the bodies and identifying and punishing the people responsible for the crime," in which more than 1 200 prisoners were shot and killed, he added.

"That will hopefully help bring to a close this dark chapter in the country’s history," Abrahams said in a statement.

Abu Slim was a top security prison notorious for torture and human rights abuses during the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, who ruled Libya with an iron-fist for 42 years until a popular uprising led to his ouster and death in 2011.

The watchdog noted that the sixteenth anniversary of the massacre, which falls on 28 and 29 June, offered the victims' families "the first chance to commemorate the 1996 tragedy without fear of repression."

Gaddafi’s regime kept the mass killing secret until 2001, when it began to inform some families of the victims, including one who had brought food and clothes to the prison weekly ignoring the inmate's death, it said.

The arrest of one of the leader of the association of the victims' families on 15 February 2011 in the eastern city of Benghazi was one of the sparks of the popular revolt that engulfed the country and toppled Gaddafi.

Several guards and senior Gaddafi-era officials have been detained and are under investigation by the military prosecutor for the 1996 prison massacre.

Human Rights watch urged they be "treated humanely" and receive "fair trials".

Libya is also seeking custody of ex-spymaster Abdullah Senussi, who is detained in Mauritania and also faces extradition requests from France and the International Criminal Court, over the Abu Slim massacre and other crimes.