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UN: Libyans Held in Unlawful Detention Subject to Appalling Abuse


FILE - A man suspected of being a Gadhafi loyalist prays in a detention facility run by former rebel fighters in Misrata, Libya, Sept. 22, 2011.

The U.N. human rights office is calling for the release of thousands of people in Libya who are being held in unlawful detention by armed groups and subjected to torture and other abuse.

A report, published with the U.N. Support Mission in Libya, found that almost anyone in Libya is liable to be picked up and arbitrarily detained in one of the many prisons run by armed groups, including those affiliated with the state government. The report says thousands of men, women and children across Libya are unlawfully deprived of their liberty and subjected to appalling abuses and violations, including torture.

U.N. human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell says people are taken and unlawfully imprisoned based on their tribal or family links and perceived political persuasions.

"Since renewed hostilities broke out in 2014, armed groups on all sides have rounded up suspected opponents, critics, activists, medical professionals, journalists and politicians. Hostage-taking for prisoner exchanges or ransom is also common," Throssell said.

The report — focusing on people in detention between December 2015 and January 2018 — found that some 6,500 people have been held in official state prisons; however, it says there are no available statistics on the thousands held in prisons run by armed groups. It says people detained in those places are most at risk of torture and other human rights violations or abuses.

The report says these people lack all protections because armed groups routinely deny them any contact with the outside world, causing suffering to family members who do not know the fate of their loved ones.

The U.N. human rights office is calling for the release of all those arbitrarily detained. It urges the Libyan authorities to publicly condemn torture, ill-treatment and summary executions of those unlawfully imprisoned. It adds that people guilty of crimes must be held accountable.

Libya descended into chaos after the 2011 uprising in which longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi was toppled and later killed.

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