Rape victims in Libya 'detained'

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Libyan women and girls including rape victims are being placed in "social rehabilitation" centres which are being used as an ideological brainwashing tool by the authorities, Human Rights Watch claims.

A team from the human rights organisation was granted access to two of the centres, and releases its report today. Officially portrayed as protective homes for women and girls "vulnerable to engaging in moral misconduct", Human Rights Watch says the facilities house rape victims who have been ostracised for "staining their families' honour".

Women and girls who have no male guardian have also been placed in the centres. They say they are treated like criminals.

Farida Deif, the researcher who visited the centres, said that "these facilities are far more punitive than protective". She said she was told that the Libyan authorities "don't just want to change the women's behaviour, but their personalities".

There is no time limit for the arbitrary detentions. The total number of centres in Libya is not known.

Responding to the charges in the report, the Libyan government said that Human Rights Watch was ignoring the Islamic values governing Libyan society, particularly the protection of women who might face "honour" killings.