- The Washington Times - Friday, February 3, 2012

Libya’s former ambassador to France died after being tortured by a Tripoli-based revolutionary militia, a human rights group said Friday.

Omar Brebesh, 62, died Jan. 20 less than 24 hours after he was detained by a militia from Libya’s western town of Zintan.

A preliminary autopsy found the cause of death included multiple injuries and fractured ribs, Human Rights Watch said.

Photographs of Brebesh’s body showed welts, extensive bruising on the abdomen, lacerations on both legs, and a large wound on the sole of his left foot, it added. Some of his toenails appeared to have been removed.

“These abusive militias will keep torturing people until they are held to account,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Libya’s leaders should show the political will to prosecute people who commit serious crimes, regardless of their role in the uprising.”

Brebesh served in the Libyan Embassy in France from 2004 to 2008. On his return to Libya, he continued work in the Foreign Ministry under Moammar Gadhafi during the uprising last year.

Brebesh’s son, Ziad, told Human Rights Watch that his father voluntarily submitted to an investigation by the militia at their base in the Tripoli neighborhood of Crimea on Jan. 19. He had been summoned there for questioning by the militia’s commander, Khalid al-Blehzi.

There are about 8,500 detainees in more than 60 detention centers across Libya, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. Many of them are held by armed groups that are not under the control of Libya’s transitional government.

Last month, a top U.N. official and human rights groups accused the militias of torturing detainees.

The international humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders suspended its operations in detention centers in the western city of Misrata, accusing local officials of bringing patients in the middle of interrogation for medical care so that they could be taken back and tortured.

Amnesty International said its teams in and around Tripoli and Misrata met detainees who had open wounds on their heads, limbs and backs that indicated recent torture.

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