By Nihal Zaroug.
Tripoli, 30 July:
Members of the Supreme Security Committee (SSC) freed 18 illegally detained individuals yesterday, after a raid on the headquarters of the Saraya brigade in Tripoli. According to a Libyan security official, the detainees had been tortured.
The SSC arrested a group of guards who held the detainees. They have begun investigations into the reasons why the 18 had been seized and held.
Illegal detentions are all too common in the absence of a functioning judiciary and strong police force. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has made several appeals to the government to take ‘immediate steps to assume custody of roughly 5,000 detainees still held by militias’.
HRW has said it expects the judicial police to bring to due process not only the detainees held by militias, but also to the nearly 4,000 detainees currently in state custody.
‘’There is no place for detention outside of the rule of law in the new Libya. The newly elected National Conference needs to take a stand to end these practices, and to create a justice system that works”, Sarah Whitson, the HRW director for the Middle East and North Africa region, has said.
Although some detainees have been released, charged or have had their “cases” brought before a judge to be sentenced or reviewed, these individuals represent a small group according to HRW. Since the passing of Law 38 in May, those watchful of the detainee situation expected the powers granted to the Ministries of Interior and Defence to be used more effectively and more often. However, the fact that the militias are well armed and can challange the ministries has reduced the latters’ ability to act.
Under the law, there was a deadline of 12 July for thuwar to refer “all supporters of the former regime” presently detained and the evidence against them to judicial authorities. That has passed.
Law 38 does not define “whether arbitrary detention is a criminal offense, nor is it clear on the possible consequences of holding people outside of the law”.
Meanwhile, elders in Mizdah on Sunday also appealed to the NTC and the government put an end to such acts. Their call follows the seizure of two members of the Mashasha tribe on Saturday at Tripoli International Airport, reportedly by Zintani brigadesmen.
The elders were due to travel to Tripoli today to lobby the government to intervene. According to sources in Mizdah, this is the third instance of kidnapping of Mashasha members by Zintanis.
Calls to Zintan officials have so far been unanswered.