An estimated 7,000 detainees being held, including women, children and black Africans tortured for skin colour
Libya’s former rebels have illegally detained thousands of people, including women and children, according to the United Nations secretary general.
Many of the 7,000 prisoners have been tortured, with some black Africans mistreated because of their skin colour, women being held under male supervision and children locked up alongside adults, the report by Ban Ki-moon found.
The report, due to be published on Monday, presents a grim assessment of Libya following the civil war, with many prisoners held in private jails not under the control of the interim government and denied access to due legal process.
The UN chief said: “While prisoners held by the Gaddafi regime had been released, an estimated 7,000 detainees are currently held in prisons and makeshift detention centres, most of which are under the control of revolutionary brigades.”
Prisoners had “no access to due process in the absence of a functioning police and judiciary”, he added. Most courts were “not fully operational” due to a lack of security and a reduction in the number of judges and administrative staff.
Ban said that sub-Saharan Africans accounted for many of the detainees, while members of Libya’s Tawerga community had faced reprisals, including revenge killings, for their role in attacks by Gaddafi forces on the city of Misrata.
While Gaddafi employed some fighters from neighbouring countries as mercenaries, other Africans worked in civilian jobs in the oil-rich North African country. Human rights groups claim that some rebels made no distinction between the two.
The report raised concern about “disturbing reports” that war crimes had been committed by the rebels and former government forces in Sirte, where deposed dictator Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed last month.
UN officials have called on Libyans to respect human rights and refrain from revenge attacks after months of fierce fighting between rebels and Gaddafi loyalists.
Ban said that while the ruling National Transitional Council had made some moves to transfer detainees from private to state prisons, “much remains to be done to regularise detention, prevent abuse and bring about the release of those whose detention should not be prolonged”.
Libya’s acting justice minister has handed the UN mission in Libya a draft law on transitional justice, with the goal of uncovering the truth behind human rights violations, reconciling the country’s various rival factions, trying war criminals and compensating victims.
The UN’s concerns about Libya emerged as Bahrain’s western-backed security forces were accused of using “excessive force” and torture during the crackdown on the Pearl revolution this year in a critical official report.
The Bahrain independent commission of inquiry published a report on Wednesday which detailed the use by the information ministry and the national security agency of “a systematic practice of physical and psychological mistreatment, which in many cases amounted to torture”.
King Hamad Al Khalifa welcomed the report and pledged reforms and an end to impunity. But he ignored its finding that Iran was not involved in the unrest and blamed Tehran’s “propaganda” for fuelling sectarian strife.
The Bahraini government has pledged there would be no immunity for crimes. “All those who have broken the law or ignored lawful orders and instructions will be held accountable,” it said.
But Sheikh Ali Salman, leader of al-Wefaq, the main Shia political group, said: “We cannot say Bahrain is turning over a new leaf yet… because the government that carried out all those abuses is definitely not fit to be given the responsibility of implementing recommendations.”
The inquiry was appointed by King Hamad but headed by the US-Egyptian Cherif Bassiouni, a respected international lawyer. It was asked to investigate whether the events of February and March “involved violations of international human rights law and norms”.