- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2012

Revolutionary militias in Libya are torturing suspected Gadhafi supporters and other detainees in centers across the country with impunity, a top U.N. official and human rights groups say.

The situation has deteriorated so quickly that Doctors Without Borders suspended part of its operations in the western city of Misrata on Thursday.

The international humanitarian group said local officials brought patients in the middle of interrogation for medical care so that they could be taken back and tortured more.

“Some officials have sought to exploit and obstruct [our] medical work,” said Christopher Stokes, the general director of Doctors Without Borders.

“Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable. Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions,” he added.

The organization said it had treated 115 people with torture-related wounds since it started work in Misrata in August.

About 8,500 people are being held in more than 60 detention centers across Libya, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Many of the detainees are held by armed groups over which Libya’s transitional government has no control.

A majority of the detainees, which includes a large number of sub-Saharan Africans, is accused of being loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi, who was killed in October.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that she is concerned about the conditions of detention and treatment of detainees in Libya.

“The lack of oversight by the central authorities creates an environment conducive to torture and ill treatment,” she said. “My staff have received alarming reports that this is happening in places of detention that they have visited.”

Ms. Pillay and human rights organizations want all detention centers to immediately be brought under the control of the Justice Ministry and the general prosecutor’s office.

Amnesty International stated that its teams met with detainees in and around Tripoli and Misrata, who had open wounds on the head, limbs and back, which indicated recent torture.

“The torture is being carried out by officially recognized military and security entities as well by a multitude of armed militias operating outside any legal framework,” according to Amnesty International.

Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city about 125 miles east of Tripoli, was the target of a brutal siege by pro-Gadhafi forces during the revolution, which started in February 2011. Hatred for the former regime and its defenders runs deep in the city.

Reports of torture were rampant during the revolution, but Misrata residents justified their actions as necessary to learn of planned attacks by pro-Gadhafi forces.

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