Detained Gaddafi-Era Official Hurt in 2-Story Fall
February 14, 2012
Dorda feels safer now under the Tripoli Military Council, but he needs immediate access to his lawyer and sustained medical care by specialists.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch

(Tripoli) – Abuzaid Dorda, the detained former Libyan prime minister and head of foreign intelligence under Muammar Gaddafi, needs immediate access to a lawyer and specialized medical care for injuries sustained in custody, Human Rights Watch said today. The Libyan government should bring Dorda, in custody for five months, before a judge and charge him with a recognizable offense or release him, Human Rights Watch said.

Dorda, 67, jumped from a two-story window in October 2011 – after being threatened with violence, he says – while detained by a small militia in Tripoli. He was transferred in late January, 2012, to the custody of the Tripoli Military Council, which runs security in the capital. Human Rights Watch visited him on September 19 and January 31.

“Dorda feels safer now under the Tripoli Military Council, but he needs immediate access to his lawyer and sustained medical care by specialists,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should protect the rights of thousands of people who are held without formal charges or access to an attorney, whether they are ex-officials or ordinary citizens.”

The Libyan government should investigate the causes of Dorda’s fall, and hold accountable anyone responsible for wrongdoing, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch has visited more than a dozen former high-level Gaddafi officials in detention across the country, including Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. None of them have seen a lawyer or been brought before a judge.

Dorda told Human Rights Watch in a private interview on January 31 that on October 25 he jumped from the second-story window of the building where he was being detained after visitors threatened him. The men were not from the brigade that was holding him, he said, although that brigade apparently let the men enter Dorda’s room.

The armed group holding Dorda at the time was the Abdul al-Ati Gadur Brigade from Ruhaybat, Dorda’s small hometown in the Western Mountains. The brigade, commanded by Mahmood al-Wahaj, said that Dorda had jumped from the window in an attempt to escape.

Dorda was head of foreign intelligence from 2009 until the Gaddafi government’s fall in August 2011. He had been prime minister from 1990 to 1994, and Libya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 1997 to 2003.

The Abdul al-Ati Gadur Brigade arrested Dorda at his home in Tripoli on September 11. Human Rights Watch visited Dorda in private eight days later at the Tripoli apartment where the brigade was holding him. Al-Wahaj facilitated the visit. At the time, Dorda appeared to be in good health and the treatment seemed humane.

Dorda was transferred to Matiga Hospital five weeks later, on October 25, after his fall. Human Rights Watch tried to visit him at the hospital three times during his three-month hospitalization, but the brigade denied access each time. Brigade representatives said they feared visitors might help Dorda to flee the country.

The brigade transferred Dorda out of Matiga Hospital on January 24, Dorda’s family and hospital officials told Human Rights Watch, apparently to the custody of the Tripoli Military Council.

Human Rights Watch visited Dorda in January at a facility under the authority of the Tripoli Military Council that holds about eight other former senior officials. The prison commander immediately granted access for a private visit with Dorda.

The Tripoli Military Council says it reports to the Defense Ministry and has responsibility for security in the capital. It has no authority in law for criminal arrest, detention, or prosecution.

Dorda was moving slowly on crutches and said he needed medical experts, including an orthopedist, neurologist, nephrologist, and physical therapist. A doctor comes every other day, he said, but he is a generalist without the necessary expertise.

Dorda gave details of his injury, saying that a group of men from the Western Mountains had entered the room where he was being held and threatened him with violence.

“Now you will know what we will do with you,” Dorda recalled one of the men saying, in addition to more explicit threats. The men left the room briefly, Dorda said, and before they could return he locked the door.

“I locked the door from inside because of what he said,” he told Human Rights Watch. “Then they started knocking on the door. They were shouting [at the brigade]: ‘Why did you leave the key in there?’”

Dorda said he feared for his life, so when the men started breaking down the door, he jumped from the window.

“I need medical treatment now, but I feel safer here,” Dorda said, referring to the facilitiesoverseen by the Tripoli Military Council.

Dorda said he has not been informed of any criminal charges against him and has not had access to a lawyer. He said many people had interrogated him since September, but none of them came from the prosecutor’s office, and he had not been brought before a judge.

A lawyer hired by Dorda’s family told Human Rights Watch that no attorney had been allowed to visit, despite a request submitted to the prosecutor’s office.

“If they have anything against any of us, they should make official accusations,” Dorda told Human Rights Watch. “If there is anything, they should send us to the prosecutors and from there they can start to deal with us legally.”

Dorda’s relatives have visited him twice since the transfer to the Tripoli Military Council, most recently on February 11, the family told Human Rights Watch.

International human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, both ratified by Libya, require that anyone held for criminal reasons be promptly informed of the charges against them, and be brought before a judge to rule on the legality of their detention. The detention is considered arbitrary if these steps are not taken.

Human Rights Watch reiterated its callfor the government to take control of all detention facilities from militias around the country. All detainees should be held under requirements of existing law and promptly brought before a judge, Human Rights Watch said.