Libya: Stop Revenge Crimes Against Black Libyans

Libya War Crimes
Black Libyans and African migrants have been systematically targeted

Human Rights Watch called on the national government and Misrata authorities, including militia commanders, to condemn attacks against Tawerghans and other Black Libyans and to allow the voluntary return of people who wish to go home. The authorities should charge or release detainees based on the evidence, investigate allegations of torture and abuse of Tawerghan detainees, and investigate the widespread arson and property destruction.

In its March 2012 report, the UN International Commission of Inquiry on Libya concluded that Misrata militias had committed crimes against humanity of torture and killings of Tawerghans. “The Misrata thuwar [anti-Gaddafi forces] have killed, arbitrarily arrested and tortured Tawerghans across Libya,” the report said. “The destruction of Tawergha has been done to render it uninhabitable.”

On March 14, 2013, the UN Security Council passed resolution 2095, which expressed grave concern about “reprisals, arbitrary detentions without access to due process, wrongful imprisonment, mistreatment, torture and extrajudicial executions” in Libya and called on the government to “accelerate the judicial process, transfer detainees to state authority and prevent and investigate violations and abuses of human rights.” The resolution underscored the government’s primary responsibility for the protection of Libya’s population.

The UN Human Rights Council is currently considering a draft resolution that urges Libya to investigate all violations of human rights and to expedite the return of displaced persons. The adoption of this resolution with the support of the Libyan government, expected on March 21 or 22, would send a positive message that Libya is committed to end these abuses, Human Rights Watch said.

Missing, Detained, and Dead

In January 2013 Human Rights Watch interviewed 13 Tawerghan families who gave details about 17 people from the town who they say were captured and killed. Human Rights Watch saw photographs of these men’s bodies, shrouded in sheets and with a number, apparently readied for burial. None of the families had been able to obtain a death certificate or find out where their family member was buried.

Thirteen of the men were civilians who were captured by various militias and killed after they had fled Tawergha in mid-August 2011, the families said. One was a civilian who died from beatings in detention in Misrata and one was a civilian who was captured and killed during the fighting when he traveled from Misrata to nearby Tomina to buy gas for his car. Family members said that the other two were last seen in Sirte in October 2011, during heavy fighting in the town, and that they did not know how the person had died.

Human Rights Watch saw a list with names and individual photographs of 93 dead men who Tawergha leaders said had died since the conflict started in February 2011 and had been identified by their families. Whether each of these men was a civilian or combatant and the cause of their deaths remains unclear.

Tawergha leaders claim that up to 1,300 people from their town have died or been detained since February 2011 or are missing. Human Rights Watch could not verify this claim or assess whether those who died were killed unlawfully or died in combat. Some people from Tawergha fought with Gaddafi forces.

In one case, a man from Tawergha who did not want his name revealed for fear of retribution said an armed group from Misrata detained him in Sirte in October 2011, when Muammar Gaddafi was captured and killed there, and held him in Misrata until late 2012. Upon his release, he informed the family of Salah al-Treki, 38, that al-Treki had died in detention in December 2011 from beatings just after he was captured. Human Rights Watch saw a photograph of al-Treki’s body.

“In Sirte they cracked his skull and broke bones – he was spitting blood,” the released man told Human Rights Watch about al-Treki. “Don’t have the body, don’t know where it is.”

On August 28, 2011, Hussein Ihneish, 25, previously an instructor in a Tripoli military academy, went to inspect a farm near Tripoli with his cousin, Milad al-Buma, 33, two of Ihneish’s relatives said. The men were hoping the family could live there, after fleeing Tawergha earlier that month. The two men never returned and the family was unable to find out where they were. In late 2012 and early 2013, the Ihneish and al-Buma families received photographs of the men’s dead bodies, but neither family knows where the bodies are buried.

In a third case, two relatives of Ahmad al-Ghariani, 24, said they last saw him on March 6, 2011, when he left his house in Tawergha to get gas for his car in Tomina. The family members said they called his phone and an unknown man answered, saying, “We caught [him], don’t call him again.”

Some weeks later the al-Ghariani family saw a video on the internet, which showed Ahmed being interrogated together with another man from Tawergha in an unknown location. In the video, both men are lying on the ground, bound and apparently injured. The family received no further news about Ahmad but, in late 2012, relatives received a photograph of his dead body. The location of the body remains unknown.

These reports of beatings and killings are consistent with accounts that people of Tawergha have previously given to Human Rights Watch. Some Tawerghans captured in Sirte in October 2011 with the convoy of Gaddafi were seen alive on video in the custody of Misratan militias and then seen dead in photographs. In the video, militia members are cursing Tawergha and searching for Tawerghans among the detainees.

The new head of the Misrata local council, Ismail Shaklawoon, told Human Rights Watch in January that 2,700 to 3,000 people were being held in civilian and military-run facilities in Misrata. He said he did not know how many of the detainees were from Tawergha.

About 1,300 Misrata detainees have been released since late 2011 after a review of their cases, Shaklawoon said. He blamed the national government for not doing more to get the judicial system up and running so all detainees could be screened and charged or released.

Justice Minister Salah Marghani told Human Rights Watch in January that the government acknowledged the urgency of screening all detainees and said he had recently ordered 24 more prosecutors to work in Misrata. The government is building a new prison with a capacity of 2,000 outside of Misrata, at a former aviation academy, to accommodate the city’s prisoners under government supervision, he said.

Shaklawoon said that abuse in Misrata facilities was the result of individual misconduct and that all complaints are investigated. About four cases had gone to court, including two deaths in custody, he said, but he provided no details.

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