'Torture' and 'sham trials' in Libyan military courts: Amnesty

Haftar's LAAF conducting 'torture', 'sham trials' in eastern Libya: Amnesty
2 min read
26 April, 2021
Amnesty says the Haftar-led LAAF has subjected detainees to physical and psychological abuse.
The LAAF and allied armed groups still have an effective control over eastern Libya [Getty]

At least 22 people have been sentenced to death since 2018 by military courts and hundreds more have been jailed after "sham trials" in eastern Libya, Amnesty International said on Monday.

Those targeted are "real or perceived" opponents to the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF), a military force led by rogue military general Khalifa Haftar.

The LAAF acts as a parallel security institution in eastern Libya, using military trials on civilians.

Amnesty listed abduction, detention without trial, beatings, waterboarding and threats of rape among the abuses allegedly committed by the LAAF.

"Military trials of civilians flout international and regional standards and are inherently unjust," said Amnesty International's deputy director for the MENA Diana Eltahawy.

"In eastern Libya, such trials take place in secret and sometimes in the absence of lawyers and defendants, undermining any semblance of justice. The use of military trials for civilians is a blatant smokescreen by which the LAAF and affiliated armed groups are exerting their power to punish those who oppose them and instil a climate of fear."

Verdicts by military courts can only be appealed by a higher military court and are led by members of the organisation, which compromises the independence of the court itself.

According to the report, some defendants were unaware of the charges being brought against them before their trial. They were also reportedly barred from public hearings and seeing the evidence against them. After being convicted and released, some reported to Amnesty that the process put them at greater risk of unemployment and further arrests.

According to Libyan rights organisations, at least 22 people were sentenced to death since 2018, while 31 executions were carried out.

"We call on Libya's Government of National Unity to quash all convictions and sentences on civilians passed by military courts. All those held for peacefully exercising their human rights must be immediately released and those lawfully detained should be protected from torture and granted access to their families and lawyers. Any civilians charged with internationally recognizable offences must be tried before civilian courts in fair proceedings and without resorting to the death penalty," pleaded Eltahawy.

Libya has endured years of violence since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with rival administrations and scores of militias battling for power.

In theory, the unification of Libyan institutions and the Government of National Unity in March should have put an end to the situation but in practice, the LAAF and allied armed groups still have an effective control over eastern Libya.

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