The UN special envoy for Libya has called on the interim government to address allegations of torture in militia-run prisons. Rights groups, meanwhile, have criticized two new laws for resembling Gadhafi-era practices.
The United Nations reported on Thursday that thousands of prisoners in post-war Libya are still being detained in militia-controlled prisons, often in secret, and at times facing torture.
The Libyan Justice Ministry currently controls 31 detention centers housing around 3,000 detainees across the vast north African nation, according to UN special envoy for Libya Ian Martin. Another 4,000 detainees remain in militia-controlled facilities, Martin told the UN Security Council on Thursday.
The UN's special envoy said that although the interim government has official authority over dozens of prisons, in practice it often shares control over those facilities with Libya's revolutionary militias.
Rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have accused Libyan militias of abusing detainees. The militia in the coastal city of Misrata, which faced a brutal siege at the hands of pro-Gadhafi forces, has faced scrutiny in particular for carrying out revenge attacks against former Gadhafi supporters.
Special envoy Martin reported that three prisoners died in a Misrata prison on April 13 from what appeared to be torture. Another seven prisoners were tortured at the same facility, he said.
"Addressing these practices should be a top government priory in pursuit of a new culture of human rights and the rule of law in post-revolution Libya," Martin told the Security Council.
Human Rights Watch has called on the interim government, or National Transitional Council (NTC), to amend a law that grants full immunity to former rebels. Law 38 is set to take effect on May 12.
The legislation states that former rebels who fought against Gadhafi are free from prosecution for acts undertaken to ensure the success of the revolution.
"This law allows people who committed serious crimes to walk free based on politics," said HRW Middle East and North Africa Director Joe Stork. "It propagates a culture of selective justice that Libyans fought so hard to overcome."
Amnesty International, meanwhile, has singled out a law that prohibits the glorification of Gadhafi. Law 37, which took effect on Wednesday, also criminalizes spreading false rumors, information or propaganda that harm national defense, spread terror or weaken morale.
Harming the "February 17th Revolution," insulting Islam or offending the state are also criminal offices.
"This new legislation is an eerie reminder of draconian legislation that was used to stamp out dissent during Gadhafi's brutal-four decade rule," said Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa director.
Rebel forces took up arms against the Gadhafi regime in March 2011 after peaceful protests were met with a brutal crackdown. UN-mandated NATO airstrikes provided crucial cover for the rebels, allowing them to oust Gadhafi, who was shot dead by revolutionary forces in October.
The interim government, set up in November 2011, has pledged to hold the country's first free elections this June for a 200-member constituent assembly. The body is to be tasked with drafting a national constitution.
slk/pfd (AFP, Reuters)