Tripoli — Libyan Justice Minister Salah al-Marghani responded last week to allegations of torture in the country's detention centres, saying most abuse occurred at prisons outside state control.
Speaking October 2nd at a Tripoli press conference, al-Marghani addressed the joint report of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The report recommended taking urgent measures for the transfer of detainees under the control of armed battalions to the state, as well as building the capacity of the criminal justice system.
"I think that most of the instances, although not all accurate and true, contain references to cases of torture and deaths in detention centres," the minister said.
"Eleven deaths were reported, 10 of which were in detention centres under the control of armed groups and one in a prison under the supervision of the judicial police," al-Marghabni said. "We opened an investigation in this case."
Authorities were "unfortunately aware of more instance," he added. "These crimes violate the law and we have provisions criminalising torture and enforced disappearance. No one wants torture or killings or enforced disappearances. Several measures have been taken to reduce these phenomena but to no avail unfortunately".
Al-Marghani noted, "We warned repeatedly that torture and human rights abuses were harmful and if allowed they would affect social peace and generate counter-violence. We will lose a lot of righteous citizens and even leaders. The most serious fact is that these abuses will hinder the establishment of the state of law and human rights in Libya."
He then addressed the thwar and their leadership, saying, "They should not allow individuals under their control, be they officials, physical or moral leaders to exercise such acts."
Al-Marghani called on the judiciary and the public prosecution "to initiate procedures criminalizing torture and to hold accountable the leadership responsible".
The Libyan Observatory for Human Rights also criticised the government. In a statement published Sunday, it placed the full responsibility on the General National Congress (GNC) for not holding the government accountable. The statement urged the GNC to enact new laws to criminalise these acts.
The statement also expressed concerns about the abduction of a number of members of the judiciary, adding, "This does not serve Libya, and will make the government's claim that it will hold fair trials for the accused parties questionable on the one hand, and lacking reassurances on the other."
For his part, Abdel Moneim al-Horr, the secretary-general of the Libyan branch of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights, said, "The government must assert its control over all prisons or transfer the prisoners to jails under its supervision."
"The government should be the only one responsible for them," al-Horr said.