By Sami Zaptia.
London, 27 April 2021:
Military courts have convicted hundreds of civilians in eastern Libya in secret and grossly unfair military trials, aimed at punishing real or perceived opponents and critics of Khalifa Hafter’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and affiliated armed groups, Amnesty International reported yesterday.
It reported that at least 22 were sentenced to death and hundreds of others to imprisonment between 2018 and 2021. Many defendants were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in pre-trial detention.
Civilians tried by military courts in the LNA stronghold of eastern Libya include two individuals targeted solely for their journalistic work, a group who took part in peaceful protests, and tens of people who defended human rights or shared criticism of the LNA or affiliated armed groups on social media, it added.
The report says former detainees who spoke to Amnesty International detailed a catalogue of abuses, including being abducted and detained for up to three years before even being referred to the military prosecution, held incommunicado for up to 20 months in circumstances akin to enforced disappearance, being beaten, threatened and waterboarded. Some said they were forced to sign “confessions” to crimes they did not commit.
“Military trials of civilians flout international and regional standards and are inherently unjust. In eastern Libya, such trials take place in secret and sometimes in the absence of lawyers and defendants, undermining any semblance of justice. The use of military trials for civilians is a blatant smokescreen by which the LAAF (LNA) and affiliated armed groups are exerting their power to punish those who oppose them and instill a climate of fear,” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Eltahawy.
“The Government of National Unity must immediately put an end to the military trial of civilians, and order investigations into torture and other crimes under international law committed by armed groups.”