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Libya’s security agency increasing crackdown on freedom of thought, expression, Amnesty warns

February 14, 2024 at 5:14 pm

Image of an Amnesty International rally, 28 July 2017 [Richard Potts/Flickr]

Libya’s Tripoli-based Internal Security Agency (ISA) has subjected dozens of men, women and children to a range of abuses, including enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture, with some facing the death penalty, in policies in place for “safeguarding virtue and purifying society”, Amnesty International has warned.

“The Libyan government’s inaction towards ISA’s well-documented crimes under international law, including torture and enforced disappearance, has emboldened them to commit further abuses and has perpetuated a vicious campaign stifling freedom of thought, expression and belief cloaked under ‘guarding virtue,’” said Bassam Al Kantar, Amnesty International’s Libya researcher.

“The Libyan authorities must ensure the immediate release of all those detained solely for exercising their human rights and cease the persecution of individuals for expressing their beliefs,” Amnesty said.

ISA’s intensified crackdown has targeted individuals perceived as rejecting the dominant Madkhali-Salafist ideology in Awqaf, which significantly restricts the rights of women and girls and religious minorities, the rights group explained.

Videos published online by the ISA show at least 24 individuals under apparent duress giving “confessions”. At least 19 remain in pretrial detention following orders by the Public Prosecutor’s office in Tripoli. They face charges of “illicit sexual intercourse”, “promoting views or principles that aim to overthrow the political, social, or economic order of the state”, “blasphemy” and “apostasy”. Some of these charges carry life imprisonment and death sentences.

ISA agents arrested the targeted individuals from their homes or the streets without presenting a warrant. In some cases, ISA arrested their relatives to compel the “wanted” individuals to hand themselves in, Amnesty explained.

“The Government of National Unity must also remove from positions of power ISA commanders and members reasonably suspected of serious human rights violations, pending independent and impartial criminal investigations and, if sufficient evidence exists, prosecutions,” the report said.

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