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New Libyan regime abusing detainees, Amnesty says

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The new Libyan leadership has detained some 2,500 people near Tripoli and are committing human rights abuses including torture, Amnesty International said Wednesday. A National Transitional Council spokesman said the claims will be investigated.


REUTERS - Libya's new rulers are in danger of repeating human rights abuses commonplace during Muammar Gaddafi's rule, including arbitrary arrest and torture, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Jalal al-Galal, a spokesman for Libya's new ruling National Transitional Council (NTC), told Reuters the council leadership would surely look into the human rights group's report.

"(NTC Chairman) Mustafa Abdel Jalil has said time and time again that he will not tolerate abuse of prisoners and has made it abundantly clear that he will investigate any such allegations," he said.

In its report "Detention Abuses Staining the New Libya," Amnesty said forces of the ruling council that overran Tripoli on Aug. 23 have detained around 2,500 people in the capital and surrounding areas, mostly without arrest warrants, in scenarios similar to abductions.

Many of the detainees Amnesty researchers spoke to had been beaten and ill-treated.

"We understand that the transitional authorities are facing many challenges, but if they do not make a clear break with the past now, they will effectively be sending out a message that treating detainees like this is to be tolerated in the new Libya," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.

Many of the detainees are being held in former prisons and makeshift detention centres, such as schools and sports clubs, which are not overseen by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.

Amnesty said that the NTC needs to ensure people are not detained without orders from the General Prosecution, and should bring all detention facilities under the control of the Minister of Justice.

"These detainees have in most cases been arrested without a warrant, beaten -- and sometimes worse -- on arrest and arrival in detention. They are vulnerable to abuse by armed militias who often act on their own initiative," Hadj Sahraoui said.

The organisation said that in one detention centre they found a wooden stick and rope, and a rubber hose, which could be used to beat detainees.

In another, the researchers heard the sound of whipping and screams from a nearby cell.

Amnesty reported that at least two guards from separate detention facilities said that they beat detainees in order to extract confessions more quickly.

"In general, the prison administrators in detention facilities visited by Amnesty International had little legal knowledge or expertise in running detention facilities, and were unfamiliar with international human rights and humanitarian law," the report said.

The organization also noted that sub-Saharan Africans had been particularly targeted, making up over a third of detainees, seen as potential mercenaries, after Gaddafi forces used foreign fighters.

Among the detainees interviewed, a 17-year-old boy from Chad who was accused of rape and being a mercenary said the beatings were so severe he ended up "confessing".

"I ended up telling them what they wanted to hear. I told them I raped women and killed Libyans."

Amnesty said that those being held must be allowed to challenge the lawfulness of their detention or be released.

However, trial proceedings in Libya have been suspended since the NTC took control.

In meetings with Amnesty last month, NTC officials said they were committed to reforming the justice system and have also said they are committed upholding human rights.

Research for the report included meetings with detention administrators and interviews with around 300 detainees -- without the presence of guards -- in 11 detention centres in western Libya between Aug. 18 and Sept. 21.

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