Violent Response to Tripoli Prison Mutiny

From Human Rights Watch. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Libya Business News.

Libyan authorities should conduct an independent investigation into the quelling of a prison protest in which at least 19 inmates sustained gunshot or shrapnel wounds. The protest took place on August 26, 2013, at Tripoli Main Corrections and Rehabilitation Institution, known by its former name al-Roueimy, where around 500 detainees, including five women, were being held.

Government and prison authorities and 20 inmates interviewed by Human Rights Watch gave conflicting accounts of what occurred at the facility in Tripoli when a two-day hunger strike by detainees sparked a violent confrontation with guards at the jail. As backup, authorities called members of the Supreme Security Committee, a body of former anti-Gaddafi fighters with a mandate to conduct policing and nominally under the Ministry of Interior.

“The government needs to establish what happened on August 26 and explain how so many prisoners had gunshot wounds and other serious injuries,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Anyone found to have used unlawful violence against prisoners should be held to account under Libya’s criminal law.”

Al-Roueimy prison is under the formal authority of the Ministry of Justice and holds detainees related to the 2011 uprising that ousted former strongman Muammar Gaddafi. The “security” detainees include loyalists of the former government, members of Gaddafi’s security forces and volunteers who fought alongside these forces.

Following the violence on August 26, authorities moved around 150 of the detainees to the adjacent Ayn Zara prison, also administered by the Ministry of Justice. Human Rights Watch spoke to 20 of those prisoners on August 29, both individually and in groups.

Inmates accused al-Roueimy prison authorities of using extensive and unnecessary violence to force an end to the two-day hunger strike by detainees. They gave consistent accounts. They said the hunger strike was to protest their prolonged detention without access to a judge or any legal procedures.

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