The Chaos of Libyan Prisons
By admin April 11, 2018

Source: Aljazeera (

The Arab Spring captured the imagination of Western Media as well as young Arabs around the world. It created massive expectations thanks to the successive rising of hundreds of thousands of protestors ranging from Egypt to Syria. Nevertheless, after several years from the beginning of the movement in December of 2010 in Tunisia, the record of these movements is problematic. While Egypt and Tunisia were able to resolve the demands of the movements with less-than-ideal political mechanisms, countries like Libya, Yemen, and Syria spiraled into chaos. Libya entered into a civil war that seemed to end with the execution of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was captured and killed in the street by rebel militias. Yemen and Syria have suffered armed confrontations that continue to plague their societies today.

The case of Syria has become a routine factor of modern political discourse. The sustained confrontation, the involvement of certain groups like ISIS, the role of major world superpowers like the United States and Russia, and the latest atrocities against civilians-even by repeatedly using chemical weapons-have captured the most of the attention of world leaders regarding the Middle East. But sadly, the inheritance of the Arab Spring is more gruesome than first anticipated.

A clear example of this disastrous inheritance is Libya, a place where open conflict apparently receded years ago, but where atrocities continue to exist on a daily basis. A new report released this week by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) found that there is massive and widespread corruption and torture in Libya’s prison system. The contended election of 2014 fractured political power in the country, dividing it between different competing political and military factions. This context spurs periodical conflict and even militant insurgent groups. Most problematically, the lack of a government concentrating the legitimate use of force has given rise to different armed groups that are paid to maintain order.

This is the case of many Libyan prison facilities, in which Tripoli authorities have been paying militias salaries, providing them uniforms and equipment, and allowing them to capture opponents. The result of this practice is a systematic failure of due process in which detainees are deprived of fundamental legal protections. Arbitrary detentions are common, and many are conducted based on tribal, family, or political links.

The justice ministry in Libya runs prisons and detention centers with around 6,500 inmates, while other facilities are run by armed groups. For instance, the Mitiga Airbase in Tripoli is run by the Special Deterence Force, an armed group allied to the Government of National Accord. This center has around 2,600 detainees, being one of the biggest detention centers in Western Libya. By contrast, in the East, the Libyan National Army, an armed coalition led by Khalifa Haftar, the Kuweifiya prison has around 1,800 detainees.

Arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and torture are characteristic in these facilities. For example, the UN report found it common for detainees to suffer beatings with metal bars, flogging, and electronic shocks during the initial period of detention and interrogation. It also found a systematic practice of denial of medical treatment, poor incarceration conditions, and unlawful killings. The report chronicles the findings of many bodies of detainees taken by armed groups in the streets of Benghazi with clear marks of torture, gunshot wounds, and limbless.

As the UNSMIL report shows, the atrocities of the Libyan Civil War are still present 7 years after the toppling of Gaddafi in 2011. While the Arab Spring was a movement capable of capturing collective hope, the consequences of these massive political movements have been chaos, strife, and continued civil war.

For More See

Armed groups control Libyan prisons, torture rampant: U.N. report

Armed Groups Control Libyan Prisons, Torture Rampant: U.N. Report

Libya, Human Rights Watch

Torture and arbitrary detention widespread across Libyan prisons: UN

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