UN cites torture, murder, impunity in largely lawless Libya

AP News
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Posted: Feb 25, 2016 6:08 AM
UN cites torture, murder, impunity in largely lawless Libya

GENEVA (AP) — A U.N. human rights report has documented thousands of cases of beheadings, arbitrary detention and torture involving electrocution and beatings with pipes and cables in an increasingly lawless Libya, where impunity has grown since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi nearly five years ago.

Issuing its 95-page report on Thursday, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said it has reasonable grounds to believe that all parties have been involved in the violations of human rights law in Libya, a country divided up among tribal groups, an Islamic State offshoot, a government in Tripoli supported by Islamist-allied militias and an internationally recognized government in the eastern city of Tobruk.

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein said many of the offenses amount to war crimes, and used the occasion to urge the Security Council to increase monitoring in and support for Libya, which has seen years of division and instability since a NATO-led operation helped bring down Gadhafi.

Investigators heard from 250 victims and witnesses and received more than 900 complaint files. But they only set foot in Libya once — and only at the Tripoli airport — underscoring the security risks. Interviews were conducted abroad, or via telecommunications.

The report cited assassinations, attempted murder, kidnapping and arbitrary detention of journalists, judges and prosecutors and activists, and said threats, assaults and harassment against women appear to be aimed at sending a wider message that they should keep quiet in public. The report points to public executions, the desecration of bodies placed on display and suicide bombings — with a child reportedly used as the attacker in one case.

"Use of torture is widespread, particularly in detention facilities, with reports of beatings with plastic pipes or electrical cables, prolonged suspension in stress positions, solitary confinement, electrocution, deprivation of adequate food or water, threats of a sexual nature and extortion," the report said. Torture-related deaths were reported in various detention places, including at military police and intelligence facilities, it said.

Gurdip Sangha, desk officer for Libya at OHCHR, noted that documenting activities of the Islamic State group offshoot, which emerged in Libya in 2014, was not the main focus of the report.

He declined to say how many people the investigators have identified as potential human rights abusers or violators in a secret list that could be made available to prosecutors at the International Criminal Court.