Amnesty International Charges That Human Rights Suffer as Libya Stalls on Reform

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Amnesty International Charges That Human Rights Suffer as Libya Stalls on Reform

WASHINGTON - Human rights are suffering
in Libya as it continues to stall on reform, Amnesty International has
warned in a new report, despite the country's efforts to play a greater
international role.

The new report, ‘Libya of Tomorrow:'
What Hope for Human Rights?
documents floggings are used as punishment
for adultery, indefinite detentions and abuses of migrants, refugees and
asylum seekers as well as the legacy of unresolved cases of enforced disappearances
of dissidents. Meanwhile, the security forces remain immune from the consequences
of their actions.

"If Libya is to have any international credibility,
the authorities must ensure that no one is above the law and that everyone,
including the most vulnerable and marginalized, is protected by the law.
 The repression of dissent must end," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui,
Deputy Director at Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa
program.

Violations continue to be committed by the
security forces, particularly the Internal Security Agency (ISA), who appear
to have unchecked powers to arrest, detain and interrogate individuals
suspected of dissent or of terrorism-related activities. Individuals can
be held incommunicado for long periods, tortured and denied access to lawyers.

Hundreds continue to languish in Libyan jails
after serving their sentences or having been cleared by the courts despite
hundreds of releases in recent years, including of those detained unlawfully.

Mahmud Hamed Matar has been imprisoned since
1990. He was first held without trial for 12 years and then convicted to
life imprisonment in a grossly unfair trial. Statements reportedly obtained
under torture or other duress were used as evidence. His brother Jaballah
Hamed Matar, a Libyan dissident, forcibly disappeared in Cairo in 1990.
The Libyan authorities have not taken steps to investigate his disappearance.

During its visit to Jdeida Prison in May 2009,
Amnesty International found six women convicted of zina (defined
in Libyan law as sexual relations between a man and a woman outside a lawful
marriage).  Four of them were sentenced to between three and four
years of imprisonment and two were sentenced to 100 lashes. Thirty-two
more women were awaiting trial on charges of zina.

Mouna [not her real name] was arrested in
December 2008, shortly after giving birth. The hospital administration
at the Tripoli Medical Center allegedly informed the police that she had
given birth to a child outside of marriage. She was arrested at the hospital,
tried shortly and sentenced to 100 lashes.

The Libyan authorities also use the ‘war
on terror' to justify the arbitrary detention of hundreds of individuals
viewed as critics or a security threat, following the September 11th,
2001,
attacks in the United States.  

The United States has returned a number of
Libyan nationals from its Guantánamo bay detention center or secret detention,
including Ibn Al Sheikh Al Libi,
who is reported to have committed suicide in 2009 while being held in Abu
Salim Prison. No details of the investigation into his death have been
made public. Libyan nationals suspected of terrorism-related activities
who return to the country remain at risk of being detained incommunicado,
tortured and tried in grossly unfair proceedings.

Amnesty International has observed a modest
increase in the flexibility of the Libyan authorities towards criticism.
Since late June 2008, protests by families of victims of the Abu Salim
Prison killings of 1996, in which up to 1,200 detainees are believed to
have been extra-judicially executed, have been allowed to take place.

But activists continue to face harassment
including arrest; and the authorities have yet to respond to their demands
for truth and justice. Libya has released about 15 prisoners of conscience
in the past two years,
but failed to compensate them for violations suffered or to reform draconian
legislation curtailing the rights to freedom of expression and association.

Migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, many
from across Africa, attempting to seek sanctuary in Italy and the European
Union, instead face arrest, indefinite detention and abuse in Libya, the
report finds.  

The country is not a signatory to the 1951
U.N.
Convention on Refugees, so refugees and asylum-seekers risk being sent
home regardless of their need for protection. In early June, the Libyan
authorities told the U.N.
High Commissioner for Refugees to leave the country, a move likely to have
a severe impact on refugees and asylum seekers.

The death penalty continues to be used widely
in Libya, with foreign nationals particularly affected.  It can be
imposed for a wide range of offenses, including activities that amount
to the peaceful exercise of rights to freedom of expression and association.

There were 506 individuals on death row in
May 2009, around 50 percent of them foreign nationals, the Director General
of the Judicial Police told Amnesty International.

"Libya's international partners cannot ignore
Libya's dire human rights record at the expense of their national interests,"
said Hadj Sahraoui. "As a member of the international community, the Libyan
authorities have a responsibility to respect their human rights obligations,
and tackle their human rights record instead of concealing it. The contradiction
of Libya being a member of the UN Human Rights Council, while refusing
for the body's independent human rights experts to visit the country,
is striking."

Background

The report, which covers developments up to
mid-May 2010, is partially based on Amnesty International's findings during
a week-long visit to Libya in May 2009, the organization's first visit
for five years.

The visit followed lengthy negotiations with
the relevant authorities, with Amnesty International seeking to visit cities
in the south-east and east of the country as well as Tripoli. In the end,
the itinerary was limited to Tripoli and a short visit to Misratah.  

The visit was facilitated by the Gaddafi International
Charity and Development Foundation, an organization headed by Saif al-Islam
al-Gaddafi,
the son of Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi who was instrumental
in securing Amnesty International's access to a number of detention facilities
and has helped secure the release of detainees.

During the visit, Amnesty International's
delegates discussed the organization's long-standing human rights concerns
with senior government officials, met representatives of civil society
institutions and obtained access to a number of detainees held on security
grounds or as irregular migrants.  

Libyan security officials prevented Amnesty
International delegates from travelling to Benghazi as planned, in order
to meet families of victims of enforced disappearance, and denied them
access to several prisoners.

In April 2010, Amnesty International sent
its findings to the Libyan authorities offering to integrate any feedback
provided, but received no response.

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