Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century                                                                      

Great Socialist People’s

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Libya)

The Libyan economy depends primarily upon revenues from the oil sector, which contribute about 95% of export earnings, about one-quarter of GDP, and 60% of public sector wages.

Substantial revenues from the energy sector coupled with a small population give Libya one of the highest per capita GDPs in Africa, but little of this income flows down to the lower orders of society. [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Libya. Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.

*** ARCHIVES ***

80 percent migrants treated by Rome clinic are torture victims

African Courier, 11 December 2017

[accessed 13 December 2017]

[accessed 13 December 2017]

Some 80 percent of migrants assisted in 2017 by the MEDU mobile clinic in Rome say had they suffered torture, abuse, serious deprivation, sexual violence or enslavement. Most of the mistreatment happened in Libya.

The most alarming figure is ”the high number of victims of torture and abuse: over 80 percent of those examined said that they had suffered torture, abuse, serious deprivation, sexual violence or enslavement, most of which took place in official or unofficial detention centres in Libya. This was also the case with 17 or the 47 unaccompanied minors examined”, it said.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 – Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015… or download PDF at

[accessed 18 March 2015]


ARBITRARY DETENTION, TORTURE, AND DEATHS IN CUSTODY – The Justice Ministry held approximately 6,100 detainees in 26 prisons, mostly under the nominal authority of the Judicial Police. Only 10 percent of those held had been sentenced, and the rest remained held in pre-charge detention. In addition, the Interior and Defense Ministries continued to hold undisclosed numbers of detainees, while many militias also continued to hold unknown numbers of detainees in informal facilities. Militias remained responsible for widespread abuses, including torture and deaths in custody.

Intelligence Extracted by Torture at Abu Salim Prison Linked to Arrests of Libyan Dissidents in UK

The Tripoli Post, 19 December 2013

[accessed 22 Dec 2013]

In an Al Jazeera exclusive, Libya: Renditions, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, leader of the Gaddafi resistance group Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), explains that he and fellow leader Sami Al-Saadi were subjected to torture by his Libyan interrogators, which forced them to give up names of innocent residents in the UK.

Al Saadi and Belhaj also claim foreign agents questioned them in Abu Salim prison, including British agents. “I took the opportunity and began to explain the reality in the prison in sign language,” says Belhaj. “I told them that in this prison, we are being tortured and beaten and hung by our arms, and we live in a suffocating situation.

Torture and Deaths In Detention In Libya [PDF]

United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), 1 Oct 2013

[accessed 3 Oct 2013]

Torture and other ill-treatment in Libya is an on-going and widespread concern in many detention centres, despite the efforts of the Libyan authorities which are committed at the highest level to ending torture and to ensuring the proper functioning of the criminal justice system.

Since 2012 the Government has sought to bring under the authority of the State the armed brigades which emerged during the 2011 armed conflict, and which are in control of most detention facilities where torture takes place. The Government has affiliated brigades to specific ministries, even though in many cases the brigades have retained actual control of the detention centres. In April 2013 Libya also adopted a law criminalizing torture, enforced disappearances and discrimination and in September 2013 a new law on transitional justice requires all conflict-related detainees to be released or referred to the public prosecutor within 90 days of the promulgation of the law.

However, torture continues today in Libya. It is most frequent immediately upon arrest and during the first days of interrogation as a means to extract confessions or other information. Detainees are usually held without access to lawyers and occasional access to families, if any. The vast majority of an estimated 8,000 conflict-related detainees is also held without due process.

From late 2011, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has recorded 27 cases of deaths in custody where there is significant information to suggest that torture was the cause, and is aware of allegations about additional cases which it has not been able to fully investigate. Eleven of the 27 cases, detailed in this report, took place in 2013, all in detention centres under the nominal authority of the Government but effectively under the authority of armed brigades.

UN denounces Libya arrests, torture

South African Press Association SAPA, United Nations, 21 June 2013

[accessed 15 Aug 2013]

The UN Security Council on Friday condemned what it said were arbitrary arrests and torture in Libya as it struggles with a transition to full democracy after the overthrow and death of Moamer Kadhafi.

In a statement approved by all 15 members, the council said thousands of people are being detained outside the authority of the state and without access to due process.

The council called for their release or transfer to detention centers under state authority. It also condemned what it said were cases of torture and mistreatment in illegal detention centers.

Council members “called upon the Libyan authorities to investigate all violations of human rights and bring the perpetrators of such acts to justice,” the statement said.

Egyptian Christians allege torture at hands of Libyan Islamists

Fox News, 4 March 2013

[accessed 6 March 2013]

The Christians, who are peddlers, were arrested by Islamist Salafists in Benghazi, who said they had Christian icons at their marketplace stalls, according to Mideast Christian News. The men were later reportedly freed and await deportation, but their family members back home told the Egyptian press they were abused while held, initially on charges of proselytizing.

The detained Copts had been tortured by their captors, who had also shaved their heads and used acid to burn off the crosses tattooed on their wrists, a source told Ahram Online.

Kamel told family members he was subjected to electric shocks and forced to clean toilets, as his jailers assaulted him and mocked his religion, according to his family. Kamel has a wife and two children in Egypt, but went to work in a Benghazi vegetable market in order to provide for them.

Former Gaddafi PM “risks dying” after torture: lawyer

Reuters, TRIPOLI, 27 Feb 2013

[accessed 28 February 2013]

Al Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, a prime minister under deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, is in critical condition after being tortured in a Libyan jail, his Tunisian lawyer said on Wednesday.

An officer at the prison where Mahmoudi is held denied this.

Mahmoudi was extradited from Tunisia in June, making him the first senior Gaddafi official to be returned for trial under Libya’s new leadership.

He went on trial in November charged with corruption and ordering mass rape during the 2011 conflict that toppled the Libyan leader and is being detained in a Tripoli prison.

“Mahmoudi risks dying. He has been tortured for the last 45 days, he is in critical condition,” Mahmoudi’s lawyer, Mabrouk Khorchid, based in Tunis, told Reuters.

Arrests and Torture of Christians Continues in Libya

Morning Star News, 24 February 2013

[accessed 25 February 2013]

Arrests continue of Christians accused of proselytizing in Libya, with a total of seven now known to be in custody including one reported to have been tortured, sources said.

Preventative Security spokesman Hussein Bin Hmeid said in a statement to Reuters that the four Christians originally arrested were printing books calling for conversion to Christianity. He said the country is 100 percent Muslim and that proselytizing “affects our national security.”

Only one of the four arrested on Feb. 10, Sherif Ramses of Egypt, has been publicly identified. When Ramses was arrested, he allegedly had 30,000 Bibles in storage, a figure that Libyan police inflated to 45,000 in published statements, sources said. Ramses ran a small printing service in Benghazi and a bookstore that sold both Christian and secular books.

Sources close to the arrests told Morning Star News that Ramses has been tortured, saying he was severely bruised.

Sources close to the arrests told Morning Star News that Ramses has been tortured, saying he was severely bruised. Several other sources independently told Morning Star News that Preventative Security was able to get the names of other Christians in Libya from Ramses.

International Consultant -Human Rights Consultant for “Scoping Mission to UNDP Libya

Programme des Nations Unies pour le développement, 9 December 2013

[accessed 26 August 2016]

As of December 2012, thousands of people are held in illegal detention facilities without any judicial process. Ill treatment, torture, and even killings in custody are a sad reality. Tens of thousands of displaced Libyans languish in camps around the country, many of whom have been unlawfully forcibly displaced from their homes.

Human Rights in Libya

Human Rights Watch

[accessed 4 February 2013]

Thousands of people are held in illegal detention facilities without any judicial process. Ill treatment, torture, and even killings in custody are a sad reality. Tens of thousands of displaced Libyans languish in camps around the country, many of whom have been unlawfully forcibly displaced from their homes. The transitional authorities, who ruled after Gadaffi’s fall, have failed to rein in the militias that de facto control the country, whose crimes have gone unpunished.

The state of the world’s human rights

Amnesty International AI, Annual Report 2013

[accessed 28 Jan 2014]


Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread, particularly in detention facilities controlled by militias, and were used to punish detainees and extract “confessions”. Detainees were especially vulnerable during arrest, in their first days of detention and during interrogation. Many signed “confessions” under torture or duress. Article 2 of Law 38 of 2012 gave legal weight to interrogation records of armed militias, at the discretion of judges.

Many detainees were subjected to sustained beatings with hoses, rifle butts, electric cables, water pipes or belts, often while suspended in contorted positions. Some were tortured with electric shocks, burned with cigarettes or heated metal, scalded with boiling water, threatened with murder or rape and subjected to mock execution. Tens of detainees died in the custody of militias, the SSC and in official prisons in circumstances suggesting that torture contributed to or caused their deaths.

Tawarghan former police officer, Tarek Milad Youssef al-Rifa’i, died on 19 August after being taken from Wehda Prison to the SSC in Misratah for questioning. He had been seized from his Tripoli home in October 2011 by armed militiamen from Misratah. His relatives found his bruised body at a Misratah morgue; a forensic report indicated that his death was caused by beatings. His family lodged a complaint with the authorities but no proper investigation into his death was begun.

The family of Ahmed Ali Juma’ found his body at a Tripoli morgue several days after he was summoned for questioning by the Abu Salim Military Council in July. A forensic report identified “multiple bruises on the body, on the head, on the torso and the limbs and genitals” and concluded that he was “beaten to death”. No one was held to account for his death.


No meaningful investigations were carried out by the authorities into alleged war crimes and serious human rights abuses, including torture and unlawful killings, committed by armed militias during and following the armed conflict. No official findings were disclosed in relation to the apparent extrajudicial executions of Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi, his son Mu’tassim, and other alleged al-Gaddafi loyalists and soldiers after their capture in 2011

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 4 February 2013]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law prohibits such practices, but security personnel routinely tortured prisoners during interrogations or as punishment. Government agents reportedly detained and tortured foreign workers, particularly those from sub-Saharan Africa. Reports of torture were difficult to corroborate since many prisoners were held incommunicado.

The reported methods of torture included chaining prisoners to a wall for hours, clubbing, applying electric shock, applying corkscrews to the back, pouring lemon juice in open wounds, breaking fingers and allowing the joints to heal without medical care, suffocating with plastic bags, deprivation of food and water, hanging by the wrists, suspension from a pole inserted between the knees and elbows, cigarette burns, threats of dog attacks, and beatings on the soles of the feet.

According to Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), the foreign medical personnel charged with deliberately infecting children in a hospital in Benghazi reported that they had been tortured through electric shock and beatings to extract their confessions. On June 7, a court found not guilty 10 security officials accused of inflicting the torture.

Freedom House Country ReportPolitical Rights: 7   Civil Liberties: 7   Status: Not Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 4 February 2013]

The People’s Court, infamous for punishing political dissidents, was abolished in 2005, but the judiciary as a whole remains subservient to the political leadership and regularly penalizes political dissent. In July 2007, a high-profile case involving five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor came to an end when the six defendants were released. They had been arrested in 1999 after being accused of deliberately infecting 400 Libyan children with HIV, and had since faced death sentences as the case moved through the courts. Experts have cited ample evidence that the prosecution was politically motivated, and the defendants claimed to have been tortured in custody. Their release followed intense diplomatic efforts by European nations, and resulted in improved commercial ties with Europe.

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment — Doc. A/54/44, paras. 176-189 (1999)

[accessed 3 March 2013]

182. It is a matter of concern for the Committee that neither the report nor the information given orally by the representatives of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya provided the Committee with comments and answers that addressed substantially the subjects of concern indicated and the recommendations made by the Committee when dealing with the second periodic report of the State party in 1994. Consequently, the Committee reiterates, inter alia, the following subjects of concern:

(a) Prolonged incommunicado detention, in spite of the legal provisions regulating it, still seems to create conditions that may lead to violation of the Convention;

(b) The fact that allegations of torture in the State party continue to be received by the Committee.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, “Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Libya “,, [accessed <date>]



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