Rights group: Libyan prison records destroyed, looted
TRIPOLI, LIBYA – Key prison records and other documents could be lost, destroyed or removed from Libya as jails and other security detention sites remain unguarded, a spokesperson for Amnesty International warned Monday.
Prison records and other physical evidence may be critical in any forthcoming trials for crimes committed during Mu’ammar Qadhafi’s rule, said Claudio Cordone, a Senior Director at the human rights organisation.
“They could help to shed light on the fate of the many prisoners who have ‘disappeared’ in Libyan prisons in the last few decades, including many thousands taken prisoner by pro-Qadhafi forces since the beginning of the uprising.”
Amnesty International called on the National Transitional Council (NTC) authorities in the interim to hold such evidence in a central repository for safe-keeping and to appeal to individuals who have taken such documentary evidence as personal mementos to restore them immediately to the authorities.
Researchers for the human rights group found documents scattered on the ground, in the courtyard, and in bags stored inside two rooms at heavily-hit but now deserted Abu Salim Prison.
Among the strewn documents were files of prisoners held for zandaqa (heresy), the “offence” for which many of Qadhafi’s opponents were convicted. Another document ordered the expulsion of a Somali woman who was HIV positive and yet another of a Libyan accused of terrorist attacks in Iraq.
People were freely helping themselves to documents despite objections from relatives of victims among the 1,200 prisoners who had reputedly been killed in Abu Salim prison. There were no guards and no one seemed to be in charge, Cordone said.
“The coming days are going to be critical for the preservation of evidence found in prisons, military camps and even in the private residences of former leaders.”
“All efforts must be made to secure this evidence so that the truth can be established and those responsible for abuses held to account.”