(Beirut) – Libyan authorities responsible for the al-Hadba corrections facility in Tripoli should immediately investigate the apparent ill-treatment of detainees, including al- Saadi Gaddafi, a son of Muammar Gaddafi. A nine-minute video made available by clearnews, an online news site, on August 2, 2015, appears to show officials and guards at al-Hadba prison interrogating and ill-treating several detainees, including al-Saadi Gaddafi.
Prison officials should suspend the guards and others allegedly involved during the investigation. If the ill-treatment depicted occurred, Tripoli’s general prosecutor should promptly begin steps to credibly prosecute those responsible. Al-Saadi Gaddafi has been in pretrial detention since authorities in Niger extradited him to Libya on March 6, 2014.
“The graphic video that seems to show prisoners being beaten raises serious concerns about the methods used to interrogate al-Saadi Gaddafi and other detainees at al-Hadba prison,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director.” The Tripoli authorities need to urgently establish exactly what did occur, put in place measures to protect all detainees from abuse, and hold anyone responsible for that kind of treatment to account.”
In the undated video, several men, some in uniform and others in civilian clothes, are seen interrogating al-Saadi Gaddafi, who is partially blindfolded but clearly identifiable. At one point, Gaddafi is made to listen to the screams of at least two other men apparently being beaten outside the room and then is made to watch them being beaten. Human Rights Watch could not identify with certainty either of the men, although they seem to be prisoners at al-Hadba.
Toward the end of the footage, an interrogator asks Gaddafi if he’d rather be beaten on his feet or on his buttocks. Gaddafi responds, “What kind of a question is this? My feet.” The interrogators slap Gaddafi several times and beat the soles of his feet, elevated as he lies on his back and tied together on a makeshift metallic structure, with a plastic pipe, causing him to scream in agony.
Guards are seen and heard insulting the prisoners and using profanity. At some point during the video, Gaddafi pleads for “rest” and promises to cooperate. No lawyer or legal representative is visible, and it is unclear whether Gaddafi has had a lawyer to represent him during his detention.
Human Rights Watch tried to call the director of al-Hadba prison to seek clarification but was unable to reach him. Nor has Human Rights Watch been able to verify the sequencing of all elements in the video.
In April 2014, Libya’s official television station aired a series of videos that showed al-Saadi Gaddafi apparently confessing to crimes, from what appeared to be his jail in Tripoli. The videos showed Gaddafi, in a blue prison suit, apologizing to Libya’s people and the authorities for any “destabilization” he may have caused, asking for “forgiveness,” confessing to having worked against the country’s political system, and detailing his interactions with prominent figures in Libya prior to his extradition from Niger.
On July 28, 2015, a criminal court convened at al-Hadba convicted 32 former officials of serious crimes during the uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The court sentenced nine of them to death, including another son of Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, along with Abduallah al-Sanussi, Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, and Abuzeid Dorda. The court sentenced another 23 former officials to prison terms ranging from five years to life, acquitted four defendants, and dropped charges against one and referred him to a medical institution.
The trial was plagued by persistent, credible allegations of fair trial breaches that warrant independent and impartial judicial review Tripoli’s Court of Assize, including lack of meaningful access to a lawyer and allegations of ill treatment, Human Rights Watch said.
Al-Hadba is under the control of the forces of the former deputy defense minister, whose forces are allied with the Libya Dawn militia coalition. That coalition backs the self-declared authority that controls Tripoli and large parts of Western Libya, and opposes the internationally recognized Libyan government based in the eastern cities of al-Bayda and Tobruk that controls much of eastern Libya.
Libya’s conflict has brought the country’s institutions, including the judiciary and criminal justice system, to near-collapse, with many courts, prosecutors’ offices, and criminal investigation divisions suspending their activities because of worsening security conditions and attacks targeting judges, lawyers, and prosecutors. The ability of the Supreme Court, which sits in Tripoli, to afford impartial remedy is also threatened by current divisions and deteriorating security conditions.
The International Criminal Court has a mandate over war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed in Libya since February 15, 2011. Human Rights Watch has urged the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to investigate serious ongoing violations in Libya beyond the scope of her current investigation, which is limited to cases from 2011 involving officials of the former Gaddafi government.
Libya is a party to international and regional treaties that impose legal obligations regarding the treatment of detainees. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment obligates Libya to investigate and prosecute all those responsible for torture in its territory. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibits anyone from being compelled to testify against themselves or to confess guilt. The Convention Against Torture obligates countries to ensure that any statement “made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.”
“No exceptional circumstances justify torture or other ill-treatment,” Stork said. “If the contents of the video footage are verified, the Tripoli authorities should quickly identify those responsible and hold them to account.