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UN: Libya must charge or free detainees

11 September 2012, 12:59

New York - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon raised serious questions about justice in Libya Monday and urged the country's leaders to charge or release an estimated 7 000 detainees, many held since last year's revolution that ousted long-time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

In a report to the UN Security Council, Ban said elections to a new national assembly on July 7 marked "a major milestone" in Libya's transition towards a modern democratic state, and drew to a close decades of autocratic rule.

But he said Libya faces serious political and security challenges, with a resurgence of several local conflicts and increased instability in the east, as well as "huge challenges" in trying to secure the country's borders, control a proliferation of weapons, promote national reconciliation and rebuild the justice system.

The oil-rich North African nation remains deeply divided following Gaddafi’s killing during a brutal civil war.

Awash with arms, Libya is trying to build its institutions from scratch as Gaddafi ruled alone for four decades, without a legislature. The country must also build its police and military forces, disarm dozens of disparate and warring militias, and appease eastern cities that have declared the east a semiautonomous region.

The secretary-general said he remains deeply concerned about the length of detention and treatment of detainees, citing cases of mistreatment and torture, including three men who died at a detention facility run by local security authorities in Misrata on April 13.

"Assurances from Libyan officials that incidents of torture or mistreatment would be investigated and perpetrators duly punished have not been translated into effective action," he said.

Threats and intimidation

Ban said some 3 000 of the estimated 7 000 detainees are held in facilities run by the Ministry of Justice, and another 2 600 under local military councils or security committees, most without being charged and vulnerable to mistreatment. He did not say where the remaining detainees were held.

"I urge the country's leadership to accelerate measures ... to charge conflict-related detainees or release them, so that no one is held outside the framework of the law," he said.

The secretary-general said almost all judges and prosecutors have reported back to duty, but across the country they continue to face threats and intimidation from revolutionary brigades, and occasionally from former regime loyalists. As a result, in most parts of the country regular court sessions aren't being held except for family and civil law cases, he said.

The secretary-general urged Libya's leaders "to form a new government that is inclusive, broadly participatory and has the support of the Libyan people."

Last week, parliament named eight candidates for the key post of prime minister. The candidates are expected to present their platforms this week and parliament will vote to select the prime minister on September 13.

- AP


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