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Libya: Report Sparks Investigation into Women’s Detention

Ahead of the release of a Human Rights Watch report on the arbitrary detention of women and girls in "social rehabilitation" facilities, the Libyan government in meetings with executive director Kenneth Roth promised to investigate these abuses. Aisha al-Qadhafi, daughter of Libyan leader Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi, also promised to follow up on our findings.  The managing director of the Wa'tassimo charity, which oversees Tripoli's "social rehabilitation" facilities, told Human Rights Watch that the government has established a specialized council to study conditions in all of Libya's rehabilitation facilities, which will include examining the physical and psychological well-being of the women and children who are detained.

Human Rights Watch's report was released February 28, 2006 in London and is based on our first-ever investigative mission to Libya. We found numerous human rights abuses in "social rehabilitation" facilities, where women and girls who have committed no crime, or who have completed a sentence, are held in indefinite detention. Some are there because they were raped and are cast out of the home for "staining their family's honor." In these facilities, women and girls are subjected to solitary confinement and are forced to endure invasive virginity examinations. They are allowed to leave only when a male relative takes custody of them or they agree to marry. Human Rights Watch continues to call on the Libyan government to release all women and girls not serving criminal sentences and establish voluntary shelters for those at risk of violence.

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