MSF halts work in Libyan city's prisons

2012-01-27 09:04

Benghazi - Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has said it suspended its work in prisons in the Libyan city of Misrata because it said torture was so rampant that some detainees were brought for care only to make them fit for further interrogation.

Thursday's announcement was compounded by a statement from Amnesty International saying it has recorded widespread prisoner abuse in other cities as well, leading to the deaths of several inmates.

The allegations, which come more than three months after former leader Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed, were an embarrassment to the governing National Transitional Council, which is struggling to establish its authority in the divided nation.

Doctors Without Borders said that since August, its medical teams have treated 115 people in Misrata who bore torture-related wounds, including cigarette burns, heavy bruising, bone fractures, tissue burns from electric shocks and kidney failure from beatings. Two detainees died after being interrogated, the group's general director said.

"Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable," MSF general director Christopher Stokes said in a statement. "Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions."

Libya's Western-backed leadership, which has sought to assure the world of its commitment to democracy and human rights, has acknowledged that some prisoners held by revolutionary forces have been abused. It insisted the mistreatment was not systematic and pledged to tackle the problem.

Electric shocks

But the transitional government has been unable to rein in the dozens of militias that arose during the war and have been reluctant to disband or submit to central authority.

Amnesty International said in a statement issued on Thursday that it has met with a number of detainees in Tripoli, Misrata, and Gharyan who showed visible marks indicating torture, including open wounds on the head, limbs, back and other parts of the body. A number of detainees spoke to Amnesty about beatings with electric cables and metal chains, and they reported being suspended in contorted positions and given electric shocks.

The London-based group said the torture and mistreatment, mostly against suspected Gaddafi loyalists and sometimes foreign nationals from sub-Saharan African countries, is carried out by officially recognised military and security bodies as well as by a number of armed militias operating outside any legal framework.

 The group said several detainees died in custody from torture, detailing the deaths of at least two detainees.

Britain, which played a key role in the Nato-led air campaign that helped revolutionary forces overthrow Gaddafi, urged the new regime to "live up to the high standards they have set themselves".

"They need to ensure a zero tolerance policy on abuse. We are concerned about these reports and are taking them up with the Libyans as a matter of urgency," British Prime Minister David Cameron's office said in a statement.

The head of Amnesty International told The Associated Press the mistreatment of detainees in Libya showed the need for the international community to keep helping the country in its difficult transition. "It's not just a matter of sending in troops and then getting out again. Libya needs long term assistance," Salil Shetty said.

Stokes, of the MSF, told The Associated Press that those subjected to torture include ex-combatants and people accused of theft and looting.

Specialised care

"There is a significant number of people with darker skin, but there is really a wide mix," he said. "Whatever the motives, it is unacceptable to do this to human beings."

The interrogations were carried out by Libya's National Army Security Service at facilities outside the detention centres, MSF said in a statement.

The group, which operates in prisons but not interrogation centres, said it contacted authorities in Misrata, the port city that saw some of the fiercest fighting of the war, to demand an end to the abuse, but it received no official response, prompting MSF to halt its operations in the city's detention centres.

MSF said it will continue its support in Misrata hospitals and schools in addition to providing assistance to African migrants, refugees and internally displaced people in and around Tripoli.

In its statement, MSF said the most alarming case was on January 03, when MSF doctors treated a group of 14 detainees returning from an interrogation centre. It said nine of the detainees had numerous injuries, including broken arms and renal failure, and displayed obvious signs of torture.

Stokes said his group has informed the National Army Security Service that a number of patients needed to be transferred to hospitals for urgent and specialised care. All but one of the detainees were deprived of further medical care and hospitalisation, and instead taken back to interrogation centres.

"Some of them couldn't even stand up, they were so badly beaten," he said.

  • Jymiro - 2012-01-27 09:20

    What a shocking story. I wonder whether the masters of the Nato forces are having a good sleep at night when such stories of human abuse surfaces.

      Deon - 2012-01-27 10:28

      This did not happen so much during Gaddafi's time as they just buried their opponents.

      Jymiro - 2012-01-27 10:37

      Deon see my comment herein below

      DuToitCoetzee - 2012-01-27 11:34

      @Jymiro. Why is it that people still blame the legacy of apartheid when certain occurrences happens in SA, but when it comes to "friends", that is not here anymore, it will not be said that it is the legacy of the previous ruler's regime? If you can claim that it is the apartheid's way of rule, that cause these actions in SA, you should be able the do the same in Libya.

  • Barry - 2012-01-27 09:43

    Damn Nato. Gaddafi was key to stability there.

      Jymiro - 2012-01-27 10:12

      There was no stability in libya during Gaddafi's term, it was an artificial one, hence there was an uprising. He did the same of torturing and killings his opponents. What I abhore is what the west did, using a UN resolution to wage war in Libya even when the AU proposed a negotiated settlement they were adamant that they what Gaddafi dead. When battles are won through a war, it takes decades to find peace ever, look at the Balkan states as an example. Stability can only come when there is a negotiated settlement, SA and Serreo Leon are good examples.

      Gerhard - 2012-01-27 10:14

      A muslim is a muslim is a muslim. Cowards, the lot of them. Hadjjis don't have balls.

      Barry - 2012-01-27 10:18

      and Gerhard brings in a stupid comment of zero value

      Jymiro - 2012-01-27 10:40

      @Gerhard. If your comments are so low please keep quite and we debate with people who have better views to share.

  • Anthony - 2012-01-27 09:50

    These THUGS must be arrested soonest, and put in the same cage as this other criminal scumbag; Saif gaddafi !!!!!!

      Barry - 2012-01-27 10:07

      Anthony, these are the people, NATO (the West) put into power in Libya, with people like yourself cheering them on. Surely you cannot but agree what Nato did was disgusting. Only the West benefited, certainly not Libya or the African Continent.

      Gerhard - 2012-01-27 10:24

      Barry this was about getting rid of a dictator that used tanks, artillery and snipers against his own people.

      cosmos.ndebele - 2012-01-27 10:33

      Anthony u were cheering them on, i mentioned it to you then that while Gaddafi was bad, these Terrorist would be worse look now!! So man tell me, do u now agree with me that Libya will be divided forever? Do you also agree that Libyan weapons ar making it into the hands of AQIM in Sahel region?

      Jymiro - 2012-01-27 10:33

      @Anthony, granted. The same is happening in Seria people are dying in the hands of government brutality why we don't see the same reaction from the West, double standard. Gaddafi was against the wall and he agreed on a negotiated settlement. The AU agreed to facilitate that process but the West didn't want to hear any of that and influence the NTC not to accept the roadmap. Thecould have used that process to steamroll the Gaddafi regime. Gaddafi's supporters would have been disempowered and forced to accept the negotiated settlement. To build peace from a negotiated settlement is much better and easy than trying to build peace from a war victory.

      Gerhard - 2012-01-27 10:47

      King Zuma is the same. He uses utmost corruption against his own people.

      Anthony - 2012-01-27 12:05

      @Jyrimo. The difference between Nato intervention in Libya and not in Syria, is that when gaddafi strted to mow down his opposition, the Libyan people "asked" Nato to interfere. On the other hand, at least untill a few weeks ago, the Syrians asked Nato ,NOT' to interfere Yes, a negotiated settlement would have been a lot better, and would have avoided many deaths, But, and I don't say this cause I did not like this guy, but gaddafi was plain CRAZY. He treated as if Libya was owned by the gaddafi family!!! He could not understand, the difference, where people said they "loved him" and the sheer fear of TYRANNY !!! But don't worry, although this gaddafi distroyed everything remotely connected to democracy, the Libyan people are ready to built up a great country. And unfortunately, they won't be looking much to the South. they learned in their struggle who their friends are and whom their enemy !!!!!

      Barry - 2012-01-27 12:09

      @Gerhard I am afraid you are totally wrong. It was all about the West deliberately destabilizing a sovereign state in order to control the oil reserves that exist there.

      Gerhard - 2012-01-27 12:24

      The libyan people started the uprising, not NATO.

      Anthony - 2012-01-27 14:46

      @Cosmos O'Ndebele, No, I don't agree with you... For goodness sake, GIVE THE LIBYAN PEOPLE A BREAK !!!!!!!!! They have just got out of 41 years of sheer TYRANNY WHAT is your fascination with a bunch of gaddafi terrorists ???? And I don't know about about arms in the Sahel region, all I know is , that arms are like water, they sip into anywhere where they should not be !!!

  • Tau - 2012-01-27 11:54

    "Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable," MSF general director Christopher Stokes said in a statement. "Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions." be careful what you wish for.

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