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Amnesty: East Libya military courts sentencing tortured civilians

Libyan Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar (C) steps into a limousine as he departs from the Hotel de Rome on January 21, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. [Sean Gallup/Getty Images]
Libyan Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar (C) steps into a limousine as he departs from the Hotel de Rome on January 21, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. [Sean Gallup/Getty Images]

Amnesty International today accused the military courts in eastern Libya, controlled by renegade General Khalifa Haftar, of conducting show trials of detainees who were subjected to torture, which led to sentencing of at least 22 people to death since 2018

The rights group said in its report that "military courts have convicted hundreds of civilians in eastern Libya in secret and grossly unfair military trials, aimed at punishing oppositionists and real or perceived critics of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF), led by Haftar and affiliated armed groups."

The report indicated that among civilians tried by these courts are "two individuals targeted solely for their journalistic work, a group who took part in peaceful protests, and tens of people who defended human rights or shared criticism of the LAAF or affiliated armed groups on social media."

The report quoted former detainees as saying that they were "abducted and detained for up to three years before even being referred to the military prosecution, held incommunicado for up to 20 months in circumstances akin to enforced disappearance, being beaten, threatened and waterboarded. Some said they were forced to sign "confessions" to crimes they did not commit."

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Amnesty International's Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Eltahawy, stated that "military trials of civilians violate international and regional standards and are characteristically unjust. In eastern Libya, such trials take place in secret and sometimes in the absence of lawyers and defendants, undermining any semblance of justice."

Eltahawy added: "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 instill a climate of fear."

She urged the Government of National Unity to "immediately put an end to the military trials of civilians, and order investigations under international law into torture and other crimes committed by armed groups against detainees," noting that Haftar's forces "continue to exercise effective control over eastern Libya."

These incidents continue to occur at a time when Libya seeks to turn the page and overcome a decade of total chaos since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi's regime in 2011 by electing a National Unity Government headed by Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh to lead the transitional phase until elections are held in December.

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