By Cornelius Boudewijn
THE HAGUE, Aug 7 2015 (IPS)
Calling for an end to “an epidemic of kidnapping blighting” Libya, Amnesty International has faulted the International Criminal Court (ICC) for failing to undertake any investigations into crimes under international law committed by armed groups in the last four years.
Amnesty, a global movement of more than 7 million people fighting injustice and defending human rights, has urged the international community to increase its support to the ICC to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya.
Launching a campaign digest, ‘Vanished off the face of the earth’: Abducted civilians in Libya, Amnesty said rampant abductions by armed groups had become a part of daily life in Libya since 2011 when Muammar Gaddafi was deposed after four decades of authoritarian rule.
“More than 600 people have gone missing between February 2014 and April 2015 according to the Libyan Red Crescent Society (LRCS), and the fate and whereabouts of at least 378 remain unknown, though the real numbers are likely to be much higher,” Amnesty said in a press release on Aug 5.
Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, said: “Civilians in Libya are living on a knife edge. Widespread lawlessness and chaos have been exacerbated by routine abductions, as armed groups tighten their stranglehold on the country.”
Hundreds of civilians had been abducted on a whim simply because of where they were from, or because they were believed to support a rival political group, he added. In many cases, they were kept hostage to pressure an armed group into a prisoner exchange or to coerce the family to pay a ransom.
“The collapse of central authority and the absence of law enforcement and a functioning justice system in Libya has created an atmosphere of pervasive impunity which has allowed perpetrators of such abductions to evade prosecution and accountability,” Boumedouha said.
Amnesty pointed out that those abducted by armed groups were routinely tortured or otherwise ill-treated in detention.
“Many are beaten, threatened with death, held blindfolded for several days, verbally and physically assaulted and often tortured with electric shocks or forced into stress positions. Several have died after being tortured or were summarily killed – their bodies later dumped on the side of the road,” the global human rights organisation said.
Those abducted include activists, public officials and other civilians seized by unknown assailants based on their political affiliations or in relation to their work. Among them, Amnesty said, were 71-year-old former General National Congress member, Suleiman Zobi, and Abdel Moez Banoun, a political rights activist and blogger. He was kidnapped from a parked car near his home after speaking out against the presence of militias in Tripoli and organizing protests on this theme, according to Amnesty.
Banoun is reported to have been missing for more than 300 days. His brother said he had “vanished off the face of the earth”. Nasser al-Jaroushi, a prosecutor, was abducted after investigating the murder of human rights activist Salwa Bugaighis as well as looking into criminal drug gangs.
Humanitarian aid workers Mohamed al-Tahrir Aziz, Mohamed al-Munsaf al-Shalali and Waleed Ramadan Shalhoub were abducted on June 5 as they were on their way to distribute supplies to towns affected by fighting in southwest Libya.
Others who face abductions, according to Amnesty, include migrant workers, foreign consular staff, and members of the Tawargha community who were displaced from their hometown in 2011.
Edited by Kitty Stapp