Government shamed by claims of torture and human rights abuses

 

The moral authority of Libya's new government was called into question by two leading international aid groups yesterday as concerns rise that the National Transitional Council, backed by Western governments in last year's civil war, is failing on its promises to deliver freedom and democracy.

Medical charity Médecins sans Frontières brought an abrupt halt yesterday to its operations in the Libyan town of Misrata after being asked by officials to treat torture victims, in some cases to allow the authorities to abuse victims again.

The move came as Amnesty International said that it has collected evidence that those loyal to the Gaddafi regime had been tortured to death in makeshift detention centres.

The MSF claim comes amid growing concern for the security situation and growing evidence of human rights violations in the country and will cause huge concern among the NTC's international backers who committed huge military and financial resources to help secure the ousting of Colonel Gaddafi's dictatorship.

Rights groups have repeatedly raised concerns that local authorities have routinely used torture against those suspected of having fought with Gaddafi's forces during last year's bloody civil war. Sub-Saharan Africans, many of whom were accused of being mercenaries during the conflict, are being especially targeted, they claim.

MSF said it has treated 115 people with torture-related wounds and reported all the cases to the relevant authorities in Misrata. Since January, several of the patients who were returned to interrogation centres have been tortured again, MSF said.

"Patients were brought to us for medical care between interrogation sessions, so that they would be fit for further interrogation," said MSF's general director Christopher Stokes. "This is unacceptable."

Amnesty Internationalsaid that several prisoners accused of being Gaddafi loyalists died as a result of torture while being held in detention centres.

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