Aid Groups Find Evidence of Widespread Torture in Libya

Detainees suffered severe burns, beatings, broken bones, and have even been killed by US-supported militias

by John Glaser, January 26, 2012

The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders announced Thursday it would suspend its work the Libyan city of Misrata because it said individuals detained in prisons are being tortured and denied urgent medical care.

The group, also known by its French name Medecins Sans Frontieres, said that since August they’ve seen evidence of including cigarette burns, heavy bruising, bone fractures, tissue burns from electric shocks, and renal failure from beatings.

“Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable,” MSF general director Christopher Stokes said in a statement. “Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions.”

The torture is widespread throughout the country, according to an investigation by Amnesty International, and has led to deaths in a number of cases.

“Several detainees have died after being subjected to torture in Libya in recent weeks and months amid widespread torture and ill-treatment of suspected pro-Gaddafi fighters and loyalists,” Amnesty International said. ”The torture is being carried out by officially recognised military and security entities, as well by a multitude of armed militias operating outside any legal framework.”

More than 8,500 detainees, most of them accused of being loyal to former Libyan leader Col Muammar Gadhafi, are being held by militia groups in about 60 different locations, according to U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay. A long list of abuses and missteps have led some to say that Libya hasn’t changed much since the barbarism of Gadhafi.

U.S. and NATO leaders, who supported the current Libyan leadership and their various militias rise to power, claimed with the fall of Gadhafi that Libya had been liberated and would now embark on a course towards democracy and human rights. Since then, the interim government has called for sharia law, committed war crimes, violated basic human rights on a vast scale, and fought with tribal militias for control of the country in what might be the trappings of a civil war.

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