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Amnesty International: Human Rights Abuses Rife in Libya

The international human rights monitoring group Amnesty International has published a new report looking at rights abuses in Libya.  The report says Libya is making an effort to boost its role on the world stage but that human rights abuses are rife.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa program, says human rights in Libya are suffering from the same problem that has persisted for decades - a powerful internal security apparatus.

"What is striking in Libya is the omnipresence and the total power that security forces have, especially the internal security agency.  There are no accountability, no checks, no oversight.  And this really needs to stop," she said.

The Amnesty report, Libya of Tomorrow, What Hope for Human Rights?, documents women who have been flogged for sexual relations out of wedlock, mistreatment of foreign nationals and unresolved cases of what the human rights monitoring group calls enforced disappearances of dissidents.

The report says hundreds of people languish in Libyan jails after their sentences are completed or after they have been cleared by a court.  And it says migrants, refugees and asylum seekers face arrest, indefinite detention and abuse.  

Amnesty says Libyan authorities use the war on terror to justify its abuses.

But Amnesty also points out that some progress has been made.  Although it notes that since Islamist militants and political prisoners were massacred by government forces at Abu Salim prison in 1996, the families of those prisoners have been allowed to stage protests during the past two years.

Amnesty's Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui adds that Libyan authorities have become more flexible with the press.

"We see a press that remains controlled, but is more willing to address some of the difficult issues and to talk about human rights or about abuses in the past," she said.

Sahraoui says the international community needs to put more pressure on Tripoli to improve human rights in the country.

"A number of international partners of Libya, including the United States and the European Union, are sometimes unwilling to raise some of these human rights issues and are quite happy to turn a blind eye to violations in order to further their own economic interest or cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism and in the field of management of migrations," said Sahraoui.

Earlier this month, Libyan authorities ordered the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to leave the country.

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