Scores freed from militia-run Libya prison decried by UN

Prison cell. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Prison cell. (Photo: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

Libya's internationally recognised government on Thursday announced the release of 83 prisoners from a jail where the United Nations has documented torture and summary executions.

The prison at the Mitiga airbase, one of the biggest detention facilities in the capital Tripoli, is run by the Special Deterrence Force, an Islamist militia that serves as a police force for the Government of National Accord (GNA).

Overall 120 people who "already served their sentences or exceeded the legal period in custody" were released across government-held territory, including 83 from Mitiga, GNA spokesperson Mohamad al-Sallak said.

The United Nations mission in Libya welcomed the releases from Mitiga and called for "all remaining prisoners" who were arbitrarily detained or had passed the legal pre-trial custody period to be set free.

Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with the GNA failing to impose itself over a myriad of militia groups and a rival administration challenging it in the east of the country.

In an April report the UN's human rights body said it had documented "prolonged arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture, prolonged solitary confinement, inhumane detention conditions, deaths in custody and summary executions" at Mitiga.

The report said that the facility held "an estimated 2 600 men, women and children" in November 2017.

The release of the prisoners comes as Libya's weak central government tries to increase its authority over militias that have vied for power since the ouster of Gaddafi.

The frailty of the internationally backed authorities has been laid bare by a month of clashes between rival militias around Tripoli that left over 100 people dead.

The GNA announced a ceasefire deal between the militias on Wednesday aimed at ending the fighting.

The truce allowed the reopening of the capital's only working airport, which is also located at the Mitiga former military base.

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