A United Nations report said Tuesday that armed groups in Libya, including those affiliated with the State, hold thousands of people in prolonged arbitrary and unlawful detention, and submit them to torture and other human rights violations and abuses.
“Men, women and children across Libya are arbitrarily detained or unlawfully deprived of their liberty based on their tribal or family links and perceived political affiliations,” the report by the UN Human Rights Office says.
“Victims have little or no recourse to judicial remedy or reparations, while members of armed groups enjoy total impunity.” The report added.
The UN explained that Some 6,500 people were estimated to be held in official prisons overseen by the Judicial Police of the Ministry of Justice, as of October 2017.
"There are no available statistics for facilities nominally under the Ministries of Interior and Defense, nor for those run directly by armed groups." It added.
“These facilities are notorious for endemic torture and other human rights violations or abuses,” the report says.
The UN also indicated that the detention facility at Mitiga airbase in Tripoli holds an estimated 2,600 men, women and children, most without access to judicial authorities, while in Kwifiya prison, the largest detention facility in eastern Libya, some 1,800 people are believed to be held.
“This report lays bare not only the appalling abuses and violations experienced by Libyans deprived of their liberty, but the sheer horror and arbitrariness of such detentions, both for the victims and their families,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.
“These violations and abuses need to stop – and those responsible for such crimes should be held fully to account.” He added.
According to the report, since renewed hostilities broke out in 2014, armed groups on all sides have rounded up suspected opponents, critics, activists, medical professionals, journalists and politicians, the report says, adding that hostage-taking for prisoner exchanges or ransom is also common.
“The widespread prolonged arbitrary and unlawful detention and endemic human rights abuses in custody in Libya require urgent action by the Libyan authorities, with support from the international community. Such action needs to provide redress to victims and their families, and to prevent the repetition of such crimes." The report elaborates.
It says that as a first step, the Libyan State and non-State actors that effectively control territory and exercise government-like functions must release those detained arbitrarily or otherwise unlawfully deprived of their liberty.
All those lawfully detained must be transferred to official prisons under effective and exclusive State control, it adds, calling on the authorities to publicly and unequivocally condemn torture, ill-treatment and summary executions of those detained, and ensure accountability for such crimes.
“Failure to act will not only inflict additional suffering on thousands of detainees and their families and lead to further loss of life. It will also be detrimental to any stabilization, peace-building and reconciliation efforts,” The UN report concludes.