Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were numerous reports that GNA-aligned armed groups, nonstate actors, LNA units, Chadian and Sudanese rebel groups, tribal groups, ISIS fighters, and other terrorist groups committed arbitrary or unlawful killings (see section 1.g.). Alliances, sometimes temporary, among elements of the government, non-state actors, and former or active officers in the armed forces participating in extralegal campaigns made it difficult to ascertain the role of the government in attacks by armed groups.
Reports indicated terrorist organizations, criminal gangs, and militias played a prominent role in targeted killings and suicide bombings perpetrated against both government officials and civilians. Criminal groups or armed elements affiliated with both the government and its opponents may have carried out other such attacks. Shelling, gunfire, airstrikes, and unexploded ordinances killed scores of persons during the year, including in the capital, Tripoli. In the absence of an effective judicial and security apparatus, perpetrators remained unidentified, and most of these crimes remained unpunished.
Between January and October, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) documented the deaths of more than 177 civilians. Shelling injured or killed the largest number of victims.
GNA-aligned forces and armed groups acting outside GNA control committed an unknown number of forced disappearances (see section 1.g.). The GNA made few effective efforts to prevent, investigate, or penalize forced disappearances.
Kidnappings were common throughout the year, typically carried out by criminal gangs or trafficking groups that exploited the country’s ungoverned spaces and ransomed victims for money.
On April 20, Salem Mohamed Beitelmal, a professor at the University of Tripoli, was driving to work when local militias abducted him on the outskirts of western Tripoli. On June 6, his captors released him.
Many disappearances that occurred during the Qadhafi regime, the 2011 revolution, and the post-revolutionary period remained unresolved. Due to the continuing conflict, weak judicial system, legal ambiguity regarding amnesty for revolutionary forces, and the slow progress of the National Fact-finding and Reconciliation Commission, law enforcement authorities and the judiciary made no appreciable progress in resolving high-profile cases.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
While the Constitutional Declaration and post-revolutionary legislation prohibit such practices, credible sources indicated personnel operating both government and extralegal detention centers tortured prisoners (see section 1.g.). While judicial police controlled many facilities, the GNA continued to rely primarily on armed groups to manage prisons and detention facilities. Furthermore, armed groups, not police, initiated arrests in most instances. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), armed groups held detainees at their discretion prior to placing them in official detention facilities. Treatment varied from facility to facility and typically was worst at the time of arrest. National Committee for Human Rights in Libya (NCHRL) reported abuses included beatings with belts, sticks, hoses, and rifles; administration of electric shocks; burns inflicted by boiling water, heated metal, or cigarettes; mock executions; suspension from metal bars; and rape.
On November 14, Director of the Patrol Department of the Public Security Service under the Qadhafi regime, Brigadier General Nuri al-Jalawawi, died after being tortured in Al-Hadhba prison in Tripoli, according to human rights activists and press reports. Nuri was arrested after the 2011 revolution and held in Al-Hadhba prison, which is under the control of the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigades (TRB). In 2015 the Tripoli Appellate Court suspended the case against him and ordered his transfer to Al-Razi Psychiatric Hospital in Gargaresh; however, he was never transferred or released.
According to the testimony of former detainees held in Mitiga Prison, Special Deterrence Force (SDF) prison administrators subjected detainees to torture. Former Mitiga detainees reported suspension from their shoulders for many hours leading to dislocations; beatings that lasted up to five hours; beatings with PPV tubes; beatings of their feet in a torture device called the “al-Falqa” cage; and broken noses and teeth. SDF leaders Khalid al-Hishri Abuti, Moadh Eshabat, Hamza al-Bouti Edhaoui, Ziad Najim, Nazih Ahmed Tabtaba, as well as SDF head Abdulrauf Kara and prison directors Usama Najim and Mahmoud Hamza supervised the prison according to a former detainee in the facility.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prisons and detention facilities are often overcrowded, harsh, and life threatening, falling well short of international standards. Many prisons and detention centers were outside government control see section 1.g.).
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), migrant detention centers, operated by the GNA Ministry of Interior’s Department to Combat Irregular Migration, also suffered from massive overcrowding, extremely poor sanitation conditions, lack of access to medical care, and significant disregard for the protection of the detainees. According to press reports, detainees experienced discrimination on the basis of their religion. IOM did not, however, receive complaints during the year about migrants prevented from engaging in religious observances while detained.
Physical Conditions: In the absence of an effective judicial system or release of prisoners, overcrowding and limited access to health care reportedly continued during the year. Many prison facilities need infrastructural repairs. Accurate numbers of those incarcerated, including a breakdown by holding agency, were not available.
Detention conditions were sometimes substantially different for types of detainees; according to reports by the NCHRL, ISIS detainees and other terrorist suspects were detained in less crowded conditions due to security concerns.
A large number of detainees were foreigners, mostly migrants. Facilities that held irregular migrants generally were of poorer quality than other facilities. The Libyan Young Lawyer’s Association (LYLA) reported poor conditions at the government detention center in Zawiya. According to UNHCR, as of September, there were between 8,000 and 9,000 migrants and refugees housed in the 20 active official detention center’s run by the GNA’s Department for Combatting Irregular Migration (Ministry of Interior), down from 20,000 in late 2017. A large number of additional migrant detainees were reportedly held in nongovernment centers, although numbers were unknown. Officials, local militias, and criminal gangs moved migrants through a network of detention centers with little monitoring by the government or international organizations.
There were reportedly no functioning juvenile facilities in the country, and authorities held juveniles in adult prisons, although sometimes in separate sections. There were separate facilities for men and women.
There were reports of killings and deaths in detention centers. Due to security conditions that limited monitoring, the exact number of those killed in prisons, jails, pretrial detention, or other detention centers was unknown.
Makeshift detention facilities existed throughout the country. Conditions at these facilities varied widely, but reports indicated the conditions in most were below international standards. Consistent problems included overcrowding, poor ventilation, and the lack of basic necessities.
Administration: The Judicial Police Authority, tasked by the GNA Ministry of Justice to run the prison system, operates from its headquarters in Tripoli. It remained administratively split, however, with a second headquarters in al-Bayda that reports to a separate, rival, eastern Ministry of Justice that provides oversight to prisons in eastern Libya and Zintan. During the year the ratio of detainees and prisoners to guards varied significantly. Monitoring and training of prison staff by international organizations remained largely suspended, although training of judicial police continued during the year.
Independent Monitoring: The GNA permitted some independent monitoring and permitted IOM and UNHCR increased access to transit facilities. Nevertheless, the lack of clarity regarding who ran each facility and the sheer number of facilities made it impossible to gain a comprehensive view of the system.
Reports also questioned the capability and professionalism of local human rights organizations charged with overseeing prisons and detention centers.
Due to the volatile security situation, few international organizations were present in the country monitoring human rights. UNSMIL monitored the situation through local human rights defenders, members of the judiciary, and judicial police. The absence of a sustained international presence on the ground made oversight problematic; however, UNSMIL relocated most of its staff to Tripoli by the end of the year to engage in more effective monitoring of Libyan human rights developments. The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) did undertake efforts to monitor conditions of detention facilities.
Nonstate actors detained and held persons arbitrarily in authorized and unauthorized facilities, including unknown locations, for extended periods and without legal charges or legal authority.
The prerevolutionary criminal code remains in effect. It establishes procedures for pretrial detention and prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention, but these procedures were often not enforced. Throughout the year the government had weak control over police and GNA-aligned armed groups providing internal security, and some armed groups carried out illegal and arbitrary detentions unimpeded. The lack of international monitoring meant that there were no reliable statistics on the number of arbitrary detainees.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
Government agencies had limited control over the national police and other elements of the security apparatus. The national police force, which reports to the GNA Ministry of Interior, has official responsibility for internal security. The military under the GNA Ministry of Defense, led by Prime Minister al-Sarraj in an acting capacity since July, has as its primary mission the defense of the country from external threats, but it also supported Ministry of Interior forces on internal security matters. The situation varied widely from municipality to municipality contingent upon whether police organizational structures from Qadhafi-era Libya remained intact. In some areas, such as Tobruk, police functioned, but in others, such as Sebha, they existed in name only. Civilian authorities had only nominal control of police and the security apparatus, and security-related police work generally fell to disparate armed groups, which received salaries from the Libyan government and exercised law enforcement functions without formal training or supervision and with varying degrees of accountability.
Impunity was a serious problem. The government’s lack of control led to impunity for armed groups on all sides of the conflict. There were no known mechanisms to investigate effectively and punish abuses of authority, abuses of human rights, and corruption by police and security forces. Unclear chains of command led to confusion regarding responsibility for the actions of armed groups, including those nominally under GNA control. In these circumstances police and other security forces were usually ineffective in preventing or responding to violence perpetrated by armed groups.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
The law stipulates an arrest warrant is required, but authorities may detain persons without charge for as long as six days and may renew detention for up to three months, provided there is “reasonable evidence.” The law also specifies authorities must inform detainees of the charges against them and have a detainee appear before a judicial authority every 30 days to renew a detention order. The law gives the government power to detain persons for up to two months if considered a “threat to public security or stability” based on their “previous actions or affiliation with an official or unofficial apparatus or tool of the former regime.”
Although the Constitutional Declaration recognizes the right to counsel, the vast majority of detainees did not have access to bail or a lawyer. Government authorities and armed groups held detainees incommunicado for unlimited periods in official and unofficial detention centers.
Arbitrary Arrest: Authorities frequently ignored or were unable to enforce the provisions of the criminal code prohibiting arbitrary arrest and detention. Various armed groups arbitrarily arrested and detained persons throughout the year. According to HRW and local human rights organizations, including the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR), prison authorities and militias held thousands of detainees without charges or due process.
Pretrial Detention: While authorities must order detention for a specific period not exceeding 90 days, the law in practice results in extended pretrial detention. An ambiguity in the language of the law allows judges to renew the detention period if the suspect is of “interest to the investigation.” Additionally, limited resources and court capacity resulted in a severe backlog of cases. According to international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), there were numerous inmates held in GNA-controlled prisons in pretrial detention for periods longer than the sentences for the minor crimes they allegedly committed; however, the GNA Ministry of Justice is working to improve practices by training the judicial police on international standards for pretrial detention. Some individuals detained during the 2011 revolution remained in custody, mostly in facilities in the west.
Armed groups held most of their detainees without charge and outside the government’s authority. With control of the security environment diffused among various armed groups and a largely nonfunctioning judiciary, circumstances prevented most detainees from accessing a review process. According to AOHR and NCHRL, individuals affiliated with armed groups were routinely able to avoid detention or judicial penalty.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: The law allows a detained suspect to challenge pretrial detention before the prosecutor and a magistrate judge. If the prosecutor does not order release, the detained person may appeal to the magistrate judge. If the magistrate judge orders continued detention following review of the prosecutor’s request, and despite the detainee’s challenge, there is no further right to appeal the assigned detention order. A breakdown in the court system and difficulties securely transporting prisoners to the courts limited detainee access to the courts.
Amnesty: The GNA did not clarify whether it believed there was a blanket legal amnesty for revolutionaries’ actions performed to promote or protect the 2011 revolution.
The Constitutional Declaration provides for an independent judiciary and stipulates every person has a right of recourse to the judicial system. Nonetheless, thousands of detainees lacked access to lawyers and information concerning the charges against them. Judges and prosecutors contended with threats, intimidation, violence, and under-resourced courts and thus struggled to deal with complex cases. Judges and prosecutors in various parts of the country cited concerns regarding the overall lack of security in and around the courts, further hindering the rule of law. Some courts, including in Tripoli and in the east, continued to operate during the year. Throughout the rest of the country, however, courts operated sporadically depending on local security conditions.
The Constitutional Declaration provides for the presumption of innocence and the right to legal counsel, provided at public expense for the indigent. During the year GNA-affiliated and nonstate actors did not respect these standards, according to LYLA. There were multiple reports of individuals denied fair and public trials, choice of attorney, language interpretation, the ability to confront plaintiff witnesses, protection against forced testimony or confessions, and the right to appeal.
According to reports from international and local NGOs, arbitrary detention and torture by armed groups, including those operating nominally under government oversight, contributed to a climate of lawlessness that made fair trials elusive. Armed groups and families of the victims or the accused regularly threatened lawyers, judges, and prosecutors.
Amid threats, intimidation, and violence against the judiciary, the GNA did not take steps to screen detainees systematically for prosecution or release; however, the GNA made efforts during the year to release individuals convicted of petty crimes due to lack of prison capacity. In September the GNA announced the release of 83 nonsecurity inmates from the over-crowded Mitiga prison facility in Tripoli. The courts were more prone to process civil cases, which were less likely to invite retaliation, although capacity was limited due to a lack of judges and administrators.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
Armed groups, some of which were nominally under GNA authority, held persons on political grounds, particularly former Qadhafi regime officials and others accused of subverting the 2011 revolution, in a variety of temporary facilities.
The lack of international monitoring meant that there were no reliable statistics on the number of political prisoners.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
The Constitutional Declaration provides for the right of citizens to have recourse to the judiciary. The judicial system did not have the capacity to provide citizens with access to civil remedies for human rights violations. The Law of Transitional Justice provided for fact-finding, accountability, and reparations for victims, but the judicial system has not implemented it in practice. Courts did process civil, administrative, family, commercial, and land and property law matters. Lack of security, intimidation of armed groups, and intimidation from outside sources challenged the ability of authorities to enforce judgements.
Impunity for the state and for armed groups also exists in law. Even if a court acquits a person detained by an armed group, that person has no right to initiate a criminal or civil complaint against the state or the armed group unless “fabricated or mendacious” allegations caused the detention.
The Constitutional Declaration considers correspondence, telephone conversations, and other forms of communication inviolable unless authorized by a court order. Reports in the news and on social media indicated armed groups, terrorist groups, and GNA-affiliated actors violated these prohibitions by entering homes without judicial authorization, monitoring communications and private movements, and using informants.
Invasion of privacy left citizens vulnerable to targeted attacks based on political affiliation, ideology, and identity. Extrajudicial punishment extended to targets’ family members and tribes. Armed groups arbitrarily entered, seized, or destroyed private property with impunity.
Civil society and media reports documented abuses by GNA forces, GNA-aligned armed groups, as well as nonstate actors not aligned with the GNA, including terrorist groups. Human rights abuses committed by all categories of armed groups included indiscriminate attacks on civilians, kidnapping, torture, burning houses, and forced expulsions based on political belief or tribal affiliation. Forces involved included GNA-aligned forces including TRB, SDF, the al-Nawasi Brigade, armed groups in the west not aligned with the GNA including the al-Samoud militias, LNA units, Salafist armed groups, salafist militias as well as terrorist groups, including ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Killings: There were numerous reports that GNA-aligned armed groups and nonstate actors committed arbitrary and unlawful killings of civilians (see section 1.a.). Primary targets of killings included political opponents; members of police, internal security apparatus, and military intelligence; and judges, political activists, members of civil society, journalists, religious leaders, tribal leaders, and former Qadhafi-era officials and soldiers.
On June 14, the SDF attacked the house of Mahmoud al-Awili, located in Al-Farnaj area in Tripoli, during a late-night raid, killing Al-Awili and his pregnant wife, Najah al-Nuaimi.
UNSMIL reported that fighting parties to the conflict in Tripoli in late August between the Seventh Brigade (also known as the al-Kaniyat Militia) and the TRB resulted in at least 19 civilian deaths and injuries. These groups endangered civilians through their use of rockets, tanks, and other artillery in densely populated residential areas. A mother, her four-year-old daughter, and two-year-old son sustained fatal shrapnel injuries when their home was indiscriminately shelled by artillery fire on August 28.
UNSMIL reported that late September fighting in Tripoli between the TRB, Seventh Brigade (also known as al-Kaniyat Brigade), and al-Soumoud militia led to the deaths of 15 civilians. Parties to the conflict used weapons with a wide area of impact and engaged in indiscriminate firing tactics.
On November 26, two prominent commanders of the GNA-aligned TRB, Abdulhadi Awinat and Osama Awdetch, were killed after passing through immigration upon arrival at Mitiga International Airport. Their deaths followed a failed, extralegal arrest attempt from which two additional militiamen escaped. The killing was allegedly carried out by the SDF, a GNA-aligned armed group nominally under the leadership of the Ministry of Interior and functionally under the leadership of Abdulrauf Kara (see section 1.c.), allegedly in coordination with TRB leader Haitham Tajouri, who also was also present at Mitiga Airport during the killing.
The LNA, under Khalifa Haftar, continued attacks by ground and air forces against opponents in Derna, including terrorists belonging to or affiliated with ISIS. While casualty numbers were uncertain, reports from media and NGOs estimated that the LNA’s campaigns resulted in hundreds of dead and thousands injured, including civilians, since it began in 2014.
On January 24, the commander of LNA Special Forces, Major Mahmoud Werfalli, carried out extrajudicial executions of 10 individuals suspected to be responsible for a terrorist attack on a Benghazi mosque. The executed individuals were in the custody of the LNA General Command’s Saiqa Battalion and the execution was recorded and circulated online. The LNA did not reveal the identity of the executed prisoners. In 2017 the ICC issued a warrant for Werfalli’s arrest. Werfalli continued to serve with LNA forces and reportedly committed another extrajudicial killing in January.
In May UNSMIL reported that clashes in Sabha between forces affiliated with the Awlad Suleiman tribe, including the LNA’s 6th Brigade, and forces affiliated with the Tebu tribe resulted in the deaths of five civilians.
In October 2017 36 bodies with signs of torture were discovered in al-Abyar in an area controlled by the LNA. The LNA reportedly initiated an investigation, but no charges were filed at year’s end.
Although exact figures were impossible to obtain, bombings and killings carried out by terrorist organizations, such as ISIS, Ansar al-Sharia, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and their affiliates, resulted in civilian casualties.
On December 25, three terrorists attacked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, killing three. ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack.
On September 10, six terrorists carried out an attack on the National Oil Corporation, killing at least two staff members and injuring 25. ISIS claimed responsibility for both attacks.
On January 23, ISIS-affiliates detonated two car bombs in front of the Bayat al-Radwan Mosque in the Salmani neighborhood of Benghazi, killing 34 persons and injuring 90. According to a hospital spokesman, the majority of the casualties were civilians, including three children.
There were reports of killings by unexploded ordinance. In separate incidents in June, unexploded ordinance killed two men in Benghazi in the area of Qawarsha.
Abductions: Forces aligned with both the GNA and its opponents were responsible for the disappearance of civilians in conflict areas, although few details were known (see section 1.b.). Campaigns of killings, kidnappings, and intimidation targeted activists, journalists, former government officials, and the security forces. Kidnappings-for-ransom remained a daily occurrence in many cities.
On January 1, elements of the LNA’s Operations Room in Benghazi, a military command center led by Ali al-Amrouni, allegedly kidnapped human rights activist Jamal al-Falah. The LNA provided no legal basis for his arbitrary detention. Al-Falah was held for one month before being released.
On May 30, the GNA-aligned TRB kidnapped activist Mohammad al-Boa in front of his home in the Ras Hassan district in the center of Tripoli. Al-Boa is a Tripoli-based leader of the Libyan Movement for the Voice of the People, a political action group (see section 2.b.). TRB deputy Mohammed Bakbakhad–later reportedly killed in intramilitia violence in Tripoli in October–had threatened al-Boa’s life in May because of his political activism, but al-Boa was released in June.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Jailers at both government and extralegal detention centers reportedly tortured prisoners. The lack of full government control over detention facilities limited information available on conditions within these facilities (see section 1.c.).
Terrorist groups and armed groups reportedly physically abused detainees. Individuals who expressed controversial opinions, such as journalists, suffered from violence. L,NCHR and AOHR reported that the “Awlia el-Dam” (Blood Heirs) Battalion, a Salafist armed group, reportedly kidnapped individuals in the east for violating their interpretation of Islamic law (sharia) and subjected them to torture. Activists described an incident in which the battalion brought an individual to a beach outside Benghazi and threatened to kill the victim unless he promised to adopt a publicly religious lifestyle.
Child Soldiers: There were reports of minors joining armed groups. Although government policy required proof recruits were at least age 18, nonstate armed groups did not have formal policies prohibiting the practice. There were multiple reports of under-age militia enlistees; these included reports by NCHRL that the TRB, the Kikli Battalion, and the Seventh Brigade were recruiting children as young as 14. The GNA did not make efforts to investigate or punish recruitment or use of child soldiers.
According to unconfirmed media reports, ISIS claimed to have trained children in the country for operations including suicide attacks, firing weapons, and making improvised explosive devices.
Also see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Other Conflict-related Abuse: Additional abuses stemming from conflict included restrictions on travel, deliberate attacks on health-care facilities, and the forceful displacement of civilians.
Media reported that LNA targeted members of the Awagir tribe in Benghazi to retaliate against criticism by tribe members of the lack of media freedom areas under LNA control. The tribe also reported threats and acts of verbal and physical intimidation against its members following the decision of LNA officer, Faraj al-Qa’im, to defect from the LNA to accept the GNA’s offer of the position of deputy interior minister.
During the year the LNA continued its siege of the city of Derna in an effort to defeat ISIS terrorists based there. Some observers alleged the blockade limited medical and humanitarian organizations’ access to civilians in the city.