Amnesty International slams Libyan police abuse


Amnesty International, a human rights organisation, demands the Tripoli-based Internal Security Agency to end their brutal campaign.

Amnesty International says that it has gathered evidence of an intensified crackdown on freedom of thought, expression and belief by the Internal Security Agency (ISA) following May 2023 when a decree was issued by an official religious body, the General Authority for Endowments and Islamic Affairs (Awqaf), to combat what it called “religious, intellectual and moral deviations”.

In the last year, ISA has terrorized dozens of men, women and children with abuse. These individuals have been subjected to torture, enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention, with some even facing the death penalty under their “Guardians of Virtue” program. 

READ: Libya: Rights group sheds light on police brutality 

ISA’s “vicious” campaign has mainly targeted young Libyans, specifically from the Amazigh community, Amnesty stated. They have targeted individuals perceived as rejecting the dominant Madkhali-Salafist ideology in Awqaf, which significantly restricts the rights of women and girls, religious minorities and LGBT+ people. ISA has targeted these individuals under the pretext of “safeguarding virtue and purifying society”.  

Since March 2023, ISA has published fifteen “confession” videos, notably on the 28th of December, two videos showing fourteen people, including four women and a 17-year-old girl under apparent duress were posted to ISA’s social media channel. 

The video encased the individuals “confessing” to offences such as “spreading atheism,” “apostasy,” “embracing non-religion,” “adopting liberal ideas,” “wife-swapping,” and “homosexuality”. In earlier videos ISA published in April and May 2023, ten other people are seen “confessing” to “embracing Christianity” and “insulting Islam”.

Amnesty International says that its documentation has confirmed that without presenting a warrant, ISA had arrested those who appeared in the videos between March and October 2023 from their homes.  

Detainees were frequently subjected to ill-treatment such as sexual violence, beatings, electric shocks and suspension in stress positions by ISA interrogators. Those held were interrogated without a lawyer present.  

An anonymous foreign national disclosed to Amnesty International that he was arrested in Tripoli by armed men in plain clothes, who took him to ISA’d headquarters without disclosing their affiliation or the reason for his arrest. He continued saying ISA investigators questioned him for hours, forced him to disclose his passwords to his phone and laptop and scrutinised his WhatsApp conversations and work-related calls before accusing him of “conspiracy” and “espionage”. 

He then told Amnesty International that he heard screams of other detainees and as he walked from his cell to the bathroom, he saw multiple bloodstains on the floor, he was eventually deported. 

Balsam Al Kantar, Amnesty International’s Libya researcher stated, “The Libyan government’s inaction towards ISA’s well-documented crimes under international law, including torture and enforced disappearance, has emboldened them to commit further abuses”.

READ: Rights group urges Lebanon to free Qaddafi’s son 

ISA’s crackdown has disproportionately affected the Amazigh community. Nizar (a pseudonym) reported multiple instances of attacks on cultural and religious sites, including the demolition of a Sufi corner in November 2023. Nizar also reported instances of vandalism of archaeological sites by the al-Hasyn Committee, which was tasked by Awqaf to combat “witchcraft and sorcery” in October 2023. These actions targeted imams and preachers of Maliki and Ibadi followers in the northwestern city of Yefren.

It was only on January 9th 2024, that Libya’s parliament, the Benghazi-based House of Representatives, approved a new law criminalising “witchcraft and sorcery”. The penalties range from imprisonment for up to fourteen years to the death penalty.

“The Libyan authorities must immediately end their campaign against Amazigh and Ibadi activists, put an end to the destruction and demolition of Sufi shrines and uphold freedom of religion,” said Bassam Al Kantar.

Amnesty International


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

[mc4wp_form id="206"]