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Human Rights Watch

Libya: End Violent Crackdown in Tripoli
13 March 2010
 
Libyan security forces controlled by Muammar Gaddafi have launched a wave of arrests and disappearances in Tripoli that has gripped the city with fear, Human Rights Watch said today.
According to credible and consistent accounts given by Tripoli residents to Human Rights Watch, security forces have arrested scores of anti-government protesters, suspected government critics, and those alleged to have provided information to international media and human rights organizations. Some detainees have apparently been subjected to torture.
 
(…) The government has released some people after brief periods of detention, Human Rights Watch said, but the location and fate of many others remain unknown. The Libyan government has not released any information on the number or location of those detained, or the charges they face, if any.
 
The government crackdown in Tripoli began around February 20, 2011, when anti-government protesters converged on the city’s central Green Square. Three witnesses to that protest told Human Rights Watch that security forces opened fire on the peaceful crowd, killing and injuring an unknown number. (…) That night, heavily armed security forces deployed throughout the city, especially in the neighborhoods of Tajoura and Fashloom, where many of the anti-government protests had begun. Tripoli residents have told Human Rights Watch that some arrests began that night, including detentions of wounded protesters who had gone to local hospitals for medical care.
 
The government again used lethal force against peaceful protesters on February 25, responding to protests following Friday prayers that day. 
 
Arrests and disappearances continued after February 25, Tripoli residents said, with internal security forces looking for individuals who had participated in protests or communicated with foreign journalists and human rights organizations. Individuals providing information on arrests said they were too afraid to continue to communicate about abuses. (…)
 
The only known eyewitness accounts of the fate of recent detainees come from three BBC journalists who were held by the army and internal security at three different military barracks for 21 hours starting on March 7. Two of the journalists said they were beaten and all three were subjected to a mock execution by security forces, despite having official permission to work in Libya. (…)
 
Despite promises of free movement from the Libyan government, other international journalists have faced physical attacks and detention, Human Rights Watch said. A cameraman from Al Jazeera, Ali Hassan al-Jaber, was shot and killed on his way back to the rebel-held city of Benghazi on March 12, in an apparent ambush. Wadah Khanfar, director-general of Al Jazeera, said the killing came after “an unprecedented campaign” against the network by Gaddafi.  Two other Al Jazeera staff were wounded. One reporter from the London-based Guardian newspaper – Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, an Iraqi national who has won numerous journalism prizes – has been held in custody for six days. (…)
 
“The arrests and disappearances in Tripoli have cowed many who were peacefully protesting the government,” Whitson said. “It shows how much the government headed by Gaddafi is relying on intimidation.”
 
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