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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                        

Great Socialist People's

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Libya)

Since the 2011 revolution, the right of citizens to a fair trial and due process has been challenged by the continued interference of armed groups and inability to access lawyers and court documents. Militias and semiofficial security forces regularly engage in arbitrary arrests, detentions, and intimidation with impunity. Thousands of individuals remain in custody without any formal trial or sentencing ...

  [Freedom House Country Report, 2020]

Description: Description: Description: Description: Libya

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Libya.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Libya

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 27 July 2021]


GNA and LNA-aligned armed groups, other nonstate armed groups, criminal gangs, and tribal groups committed an unknown number of forced disappearances (see section 1.g.). Due to its limited capacity, the GNA made few effective efforts to prevent, investigate, or penalize forced disappearances.

Libyan and international human rights organizations reported that dozens of civil society activists, politicians, judges, and journalists have been forcibly disappeared by both western and eastern security services or armed groups and detained for making comments or pursuing activities perceived as being disloyal to the GNA or LNA.

Many disappearances that occurred during the Qadhafi regime, the 2011 revolution, and the postrevolutionary period remained uninvestigated.


International and Libyan human rights organizations noted that the GNA-aligned Special Deterrence Force and Nawasi Brigade conducted summary executions, acts of torture, and other abuses at official prisons and unofficial interrogation facilities.

An unknown number of other refugees and migrants were held in extralegal detention facilities, such as smugglers’ camps, controlled by criminal and nonstate armed groups. Persons held in these facilities were routinely tortured and abused, including being subjected to arbitrary killings, rape and sexual violence, beatings, forced labor, and deprivation of food and water according to dozens of testimonies shared with international aid agencies and human rights groups. In January, for example, UNSMIL interviewed 32 migrants who had been arbitrarily detained and subjected to torture or rape for ransom by nonstate criminal groups and state officials, including DCIM and Coast Guard employees.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 15 May 2020]


Since the 2011 revolution, the right of citizens to a fair trial and due process has been challenged by the continued interference of armed groups and inability to access lawyers and court documents. Militias and semiofficial security forces regularly engage in arbitrary arrests, detentions, and intimidation with impunity. Thousands of individuals remain in custody without any formal trial or sentencing.

ICC Prosecutor Says War Crimes Including Torture Committed In Libya

Riya Baibhawi, Republic World, 6 May 2020

[accessed 7 May 2020]

Bensouda highlighted that there were “grave and persistent” arbitrary detentions and mistreatments of migrants and refugees who were at risk of torture, murder and various forms of sexual violence. The top prosecutor said that former detainees had reported "brutal methods of torture” while many others have died from their injuries or lack of medical care.

She also highlighted that there was a surge in numbers of “enforced disappearance”. Adding that these illegal disappearances, when targeted against prominent members of the society like journalists and human rights defenders, sent a strong message that “voices of dissent should not be tolerated” and causes “grave consequences” for both individuals and society.

Libya: 85 percent of migrants subjected to torture

Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (Italian news agency) ANSA, 20 March 2020

[accessed 7 April 2020]

A report by the organization Doctors for Human Rights has found that 85% of migrants and refugees who reached Italy from Libya had been subjected to torture in the African country.

Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU) released a report titled "The Torture Factory" on Tuesday. The organization gathered accounts from more than 3,000 migrants and refugees who had reached Italy from Libya between 2014 and 2020 .

They found that 85% of those migrants and refugees had been subjected to "torture, violence, and inhumane and degrading treatment" in Libya.

Two-thirds had reportedly been detained. Almost 50% had been kidnapped or nearly died. Nine out of ten said they had watched someone die, be killed, or tortured.

"A high number of those interviewed said they were subjected to forced labor or conditions of slavery for months or years," according to the reports.

Widespread torture and rape documented in Libya's refugee camps

Nermin Ismail, Deutsche Welle DW, 26 March 2019

[accessed 20 May 2019]

An increasing number of refugees are being tortured and raped in Libya, a new study has found. The perpetrators, motivated by greed, sadism and the desire for power, include local European Union partners.

The details of the torture methods are difficult to imagine. Chynoweth called the intensity and methods of sexual violence shocking. Men and women are forced to rape others, penises are cut off, and women are abused and raped until they bleed to death. Boys have to rape their sisters. "If someone had told me this before, I would never have believed it. You can only believe it if you have seen it with your own eyes," reported a survivor from Gambia.

When gruesome doesn't do the word 'torture' justice in Libya

Ghaith Alsanusi, TRT World, 26 April 2019

[accessed 12 May 2019]

A leaked recording of the voice of the former head of Gernada prison reveals the extent of the cruelty and degradation.

“They are forced to swim in sewage, with no beds to sleep on and no clothes to wear,” he is heard saying.

The former detainee, who chose to remain anonymous, said prisoners are subject to psychological and sexual abuse and are forced to walk on shattered glass blindfolded, are pushed down the stairs, kicked in the genitals and hit with pipes, as well as have their hair pulled and their hands tied up.

MSF concerned about underestimation of torture in Libya

Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata ANSA, Italian news agency, 2 July 2018

[accessed 4 July 2018]

The Doctors without Borders (MSF) reports that the majority of patients in its center for survivors of tortures and ill treatment are migrants, including minors, and expresses concern at how the incidence of torture in Libya is underestimated.

"Despite being contrary to international law, torture, ill treatment and abuse are still being used in many countries around the world and the global medical community is largely unprepared to identify survivors of these horrible practices amongst its patients," writes MSF, recalling how "the majority of patients at its rehabilitation centres for the survivors of torture and inhumane and degrading treatment are refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, including unaccompanied foreign minors".

950 people treated in 2018 -  "Many of the people we treat in Rome have come through Libya where they were tortured and ill-treated.

Armed groups control Libyan prisons, torture rampant: UN report

UN High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR, Geneva, 11 April 2018

[accessed 15 April 2018]

The report said many detainees have been held without charge or trial since the 2011 revolution that overthrew former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

"Torture and ill-treatment are systematic in detention facilities across Libya, particularly in the initial period of detention and during interrogations," the UN said.

Methods include beatings with metal bars, flogging, and electronic shocks, it said in the report based on interviews, prison visits, legal and forensic records, and photographic and video evidence.

Executions, Torture and Slave Markets Persist in Libya: U.N.

Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters, Geneva, 21 March 2018

[accessed 25 March 2018]

Libyans and migrants are often held incommunicado in arbitrary detention in appalling conditions, and reports persist of captured migrants being bought and sold on "open slave markets", it said in a report to the Human Rights Council.

"Extrajudicial and unlawful killings are rampant," Andrew Gilmour, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, told the Geneva forum.

A video emerged on Jan 24 purportedly showing a special forces field commander Mahmoud al-Werfalli shooting 10 blindfolded men kneeling with their hands tied behind their back, he said. Reuters could not independently confirm the gunman's identity.

80 percent migrants treated by Rome clinic are torture victims

African Courier, 11 December 2017

[accessed 13 December 2017]

[accessed 13 December 2017]

Some 80 percent of migrants assisted in 2017 by the MEDU mobile clinic in Rome say had they suffered torture, abuse, serious deprivation, sexual violence or enslavement. Most of the mistreatment happened in Libya.

The most alarming figure is ”the high number of victims of torture and abuse: over 80 percent of those examined said that they had suffered torture, abuse, serious deprivation, sexual violence or enslavement, most of which took place in official or unofficial detention centres in Libya. This was also the case with 17 or the 47 unaccompanied minors examined”, it said.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 - Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015 or

[accessed 18 March 2015]


ARBITRARY DETENTION, TORTURE, AND DEATHS IN CUSTODY - The Justice Ministry held approximately 6,100 detainees in 26 prisons, mostly under the nominal authority of the Judicial Police. Only 10 percent of those held had been sentenced, and the rest remained held in pre-charge detention. In addition, the Interior and Defense Ministries continued to hold undisclosed numbers of detainees, while many militias also continued to hold unknown numbers of detainees in informal facilities. Militias remained responsible for widespread abuses, including torture and deaths in custody.

Intelligence Extracted by Torture at Abu Salim Prison Linked to Arrests of Libyan Dissidents in UK

The Tripoli Post, 19 December 2013

[accessed 22 Dec 2013]

In an Al Jazeera exclusive, Libya: Renditions, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, leader of the Gaddafi resistance group Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), explains that he and fellow leader Sami Al-Saadi were subjected to torture by his Libyan interrogators, which forced them to give up names of innocent residents in the UK.

Al Saadi and Belhaj also claim foreign agents questioned them in Abu Salim prison, including British agents. “I took the opportunity and began to explain the reality in the prison in sign language,” says Belhaj. “I told them that in this prison, we are being tortured and beaten and hung by our arms, and we live in a suffocating situation.

Torture and Deaths In Detention In Libya [PDF]

United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), 1 Oct 2013

[accessed 3 Oct 2013]

Torture and other ill-treatment in Libya is an on-going and widespread concern in many detention centres, despite the efforts of the Libyan authorities which are committed at the highest level to ending torture and to ensuring the proper functioning of the criminal justice system.

Since 2012 the Government has sought to bring under the authority of the State the armed brigades which emerged during the 2011 armed conflict, and which are in control of most detention facilities where torture takes place. The Government has affiliated brigades to specific ministries, even though in many cases the brigades have retained actual control of the detention centres. In April 2013 Libya also adopted a law criminalizing torture, enforced disappearances and discrimination and in September 2013 a new law on transitional justice  requires all conflict-related detainees to be released or referred to the public prosecutor within 90 days of the promulgation of the law.

However, torture continues today in Libya. It is most frequent immediately upon arrest and during the first days of interrogation as a means to extract confessions or other information. Detainees are usually held without access to lawyers and occasional access to families, if any. The vast majority of an estimated 8,000 conflict-related detainees is also held without due process.

From late 2011, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has recorded 27  cases of deaths in custody where there is significant information to suggest that torture was the cause, and is aware of allegations about additional cases which it has not been able to fully investigate. Eleven of the 27 cases, detailed in this report, took place in 2013, all in detention centres under the nominal authority of the Government but effectively under the authority of armed brigades.

UN denounces Libya arrests, torture

South African Press Association SAPA,  United Nations, 21 June 2013

[accessed 15 Aug  2013]

The UN Security Council on Friday condemned what it said were arbitrary arrests and torture in Libya as it struggles with a transition to full democracy after the overthrow and death of Moamer Kadhafi.

In a statement approved by all 15 members, the council said thousands of people are being detained outside the authority of the state and without access to due process.

The council called for their release or transfer to detention centers under state authority. It also condemned what it said were cases of torture and mistreatment in illegal detention centers.

Council members "called upon the Libyan authorities to investigate all violations of human rights and bring the perpetrators of such acts to justice," the statement said.

Egyptian Christians allege torture at hands of Libyan Islamists

Fox News, 4 March 2013

[accessed 6 March 2013]

The Christians, who are peddlers, were arrested by Islamist Salafists in Benghazi, who said they had Christian icons at their marketplace stalls, according to Mideast Christian News. The men were later reportedly freed and await deportation, but their family members back home told the Egyptian press they were abused while held, initially on charges of proselytizing.

The detained Copts had been tortured by their captors, who had also shaved their heads and used acid to burn off the crosses tattooed on their wrists, a source told Ahram Online.

Kamel told family members he was subjected to electric shocks and forced to clean toilets, as his jailers assaulted him and mocked his religion, according to his family. Kamel has a wife and two children in Egypt, but went to work in a Benghazi vegetable market in order to provide for them.

Former Gaddafi PM "risks dying" after torture: lawyer

Reuters, TRIPOLI, 27 Feb 2013

[accessed 28 February 2013]

Al Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, a prime minister under deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, is in critical condition after being tortured in a Libyan jail, his Tunisian lawyer said on Wednesday.

An officer at the prison where Mahmoudi is held denied this.

Mahmoudi was extradited from Tunisia in June, making him the first senior Gaddafi official to be returned for trial under Libya's new leadership.

He went on trial in November charged with corruption and ordering mass rape during the 2011 conflict that toppled the Libyan leader and is being detained in a Tripoli prison.

"Mahmoudi risks dying. He has been tortured for the last 45 days, he is in critical condition," Mahmoudi's lawyer, Mabrouk Khorchid, based in Tunis, told Reuters.

Arrests and Torture of Christians Continues in Libya

Morning Star News, 24 February 2013

[accessed 25 February 2013]

Arrests continue of Christians accused of proselytizing in Libya, with a total of seven now known to be in custody including one reported to have been tortured, sources said.

Preventative Security spokesman Hussein Bin Hmeid said in a statement to Reuters that the four Christians originally arrested were printing books calling for conversion to Christianity. He said the country is 100 percent Muslim and that proselytizing "affects our national security."

Only one of the four arrested on Feb. 10, Sherif Ramses of Egypt, has been publicly identified. When Ramses was arrested, he allegedly had 30,000 Bibles in storage, a figure that Libyan police inflated to 45,000 in published statements, sources said. Ramses ran a small printing service in Benghazi and a bookstore that sold both Christian and secular books.

Sources close to the arrests told Morning Star News that Ramses has been tortured, saying he was severely bruised.

Sources close to the arrests told Morning Star News that Ramses has been tortured, saying he was severely bruised. Several other sources independently told Morning Star News that Preventative Security was able to get the names of other Christians in Libya from Ramses.

International Consultant -Human Rights Consultant for “Scoping Mission to UNDP Libya

Programme des Nations Unies pour le développement, 9 December 2013

[accessed 26 August 2016]

As of December 2012, thousands of people are held in illegal detention facilities without any judicial process. Ill treatment, torture, and even killings in custody are a sad reality. Tens of thousands of displaced Libyans languish in camps around the country, many of whom have been unlawfully forcibly displaced from their homes.

Human Rights in Libya

Human Rights Watch

[accessed 4 February 2013]

Thousands of people are held in illegal detention facilities without any judicial process. Ill treatment, torture, and even killings in custody are a sad reality. Tens of thousands of displaced Libyans languish in camps around the country, many of whom have been unlawfully forcibly displaced from their homes. The transitional authorities, who ruled after Gadaffi’s fall, have failed to rein in the militias that de facto control the country, whose crimes have gone unpunished.


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015


Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread, particularly in detention facilities controlled by militias, and were used to punish detainees and extract “confessions”. Detainees were especially vulnerable during arrest, in their first days of detention and during interrogation. Many signed “confessions” under torture or duress. Article 2 of Law 38 of 2012 gave legal weight to interrogation records of armed militias, at the discretion of judges.

Many detainees were subjected to sustained beatings with hoses, rifle butts, electric cables, water pipes or belts, often while suspended in contorted positions. Some were tortured with electric shocks, burned with cigarettes or heated metal, scalded with boiling water, threatened with murder or rape and subjected to mock execution. Tens of detainees died in the custody of militias, the SSC and in official prisons in circumstances suggesting that torture contributed to or caused their deaths.

Tawarghan former police officer, Tarek Milad Youssef al-Rifa’i, died on 19 August after being taken from Wehda Prison to the SSC in Misratah for questioning. He had been seized from his Tripoli home in October 2011 by armed militiamen from Misratah. His relatives found his bruised body at a Misratah morgue; a forensic report indicated that his death was caused by beatings. His family lodged a complaint with the authorities but no proper investigation into his death was begun.

The family of Ahmed Ali Juma’ found his body at a Tripoli morgue several days after he was summoned for questioning by the Abu Salim Military Council in July. A forensic report identified “multiple bruises on the body, on the head, on the torso and the limbs and genitals” and concluded that he was “beaten to death”. No one was held to account for his death.


No meaningful investigations were carried out by the authorities into alleged war crimes and serious human rights abuses, including torture and unlawful killings, committed by armed militias during and following the armed conflict. No official findings were disclosed in relation to the apparent extrajudicial executions of Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi, his son Mu’tassim, and other alleged al-Gaddafi loyalists and soldiers after their capture in 2011

Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment  -- Doc. A/54/44, paras. 176-189 (1999)

[accessed 3 March 2013]

182. It is a matter of concern for the Committee that neither the report nor the information given orally by the representatives of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya provided the Committee with comments and answers that addressed substantially the subjects of concern indicated and the recommendations made by the Committee when dealing with the second periodic report of the State party in 1994. Consequently, the Committee reiterates, inter alia, the following subjects of concern:

(a) Prolonged incommunicado detention, in spite of the legal provisions regulating it, still seems to create conditions that may lead to violation of the Convention;

(b) The fact that allegations of torture in the State party continue to be received by the Committee.


For more articles:: Search Amnesty International’s website

[accessed 6 January 2019]

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Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 7   Civil Liberties: 7   Status: Not Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 4 February 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 13 May 2020]

The People’s Court, infamous for punishing political dissidents, was abolished in 2005, but the judiciary as a whole remains subservient to the political leadership and regularly penalizes political dissent. In July 2007, a high-profile case involving five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor came to an end when the six defendants were released. They had been arrested in 1999 after being accused of deliberately infecting 400 Libyan children with HIV, and had since faced death sentences as the case moved through the courts. Experts have cited ample evidence that the prosecution was politically motivated, and the defendants claimed to have been tortured in custody. Their release followed intense diplomatic efforts by European nations, and resulted in improved commercial ties with Europe.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 4 February 2013]

[accessed 4 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The law prohibits such practices, but security personnel routinely tortured prisoners during interrogations or as punishment. Government agents reportedly detained and tortured foreign workers, particularly those from sub-Saharan Africa. Reports of torture were difficult to corroborate since many prisoners were held incommunicado.

The reported methods of torture included chaining prisoners to a wall for hours, clubbing, applying electric shock, applying corkscrews to the back, pouring lemon juice in open wounds, breaking fingers and allowing the joints to heal without medical care, suffocating with plastic bags, deprivation of food and water, hanging by the wrists, suspension from a pole inserted between the knees and elbows, cigarette burns, threats of dog attacks, and beatings on the soles of the feet.

According to Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), the foreign medical personnel charged with deliberately infecting children in a hospital in Benghazi reported that they had been tortured through electric shock and beatings to extract their confessions. On June 7, a court found not guilty 10 security officials accused of inflicting the torture.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Libya ",, [accessed <date>]