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Libyan Writer Dr. Mohammed Berween


د. محمد بالروين

Monday, 1 September, 2008

Torture : Qaddafi’s Gift To The Libyan People
 
Dr. Mohamed Berween

[
39 common techniques of torture … in … 39 years ]

 Abstract

The main purpose of this article is twofold: (a) to expose the barbaric actions of Qaddafi’s regime. And (b) to illustrate the hypocritical nature of his system in the case of the eradicating torture and the cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment of the prisoners of conscience in Libya. And one of the best ways to accomplish this is to compare  the rhetoric of Qaddafi about the respect for, and observance of human rights and the reality of the situation in Libyan prisons. The article will focus only on one aspect of this issue, namely,  the common practices of torture in the prisons of Libya since 1970. The article begins by describing the main International treaties, covenants, and conventions concerning eradicating torture and

prosecuting alleged perpetrators. The article, then, cites the main physical and psychological methods of torture that have been used and also the false charges to justify their use? The article, concluded by emphasizing that torture is the major (and maybe the only) accomplishment To Qaddafi’s regime in the last thirty nine years. 

 

Theatrically, Qaddafi’s regime has supported and accepted all International treaties, covenants, and conventions that deals with prohibiting all kinds of torture.  To illustrate this point let me cite some articles of these treaties which Gaddafi’s regime has accepted and promise to respect. Article 5 (a) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."     In addition to this article Libya is also is a party to the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that became effective 26 June 1987. Article 1 (1) of this convention defines the term torture to mean:     

                                                                               

"Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical

or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes

as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession,

punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is

suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him

or a third person,  or for any reason based on discrimination of any

kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation

of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other

person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or

suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful

sanctions;" 

 

Article 2 (1) of this convention also states that: "Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.” And article 4 (1) of this convention emphasizes that: "Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture;” And article (15) of this convention states that: "each State Party shall ensure that any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made."

 

.           Despite all of these articles and others, which Qaddafi supported and approved,

the reality is that all political prisoners, without exception, were subjected to torture and

ill-treatment in Qaddafi's prisons. The security personnel in Libya tortured prisoners,

sometimes publicly and even on television, during interrogations and for punishment.

Prisoners of conscience have been commonly tortured in Libya to make them sign false confessions to incriminate themselves, to give information, to mention names or other

political activities, to force others to confess, and as a simple and effective means to

humiliate, intimidate, and subdue them in custody. In Libya today, there are more

than thirty-nine (39) common techniques of physical and psychological torture.

The following are just examples of these common techniques:

 

 I. Physical Torture:

 

 1. Kicking: It is a kind of beating with a heavy cable or a high-pressure

     hose on all parts of a detainee’s body.  This kind of kicking included

     all prisoners whether they were Libyans or foreigners.

 

2. Beating (known as Al-Falaka) : It is a method of torture by which the

    prison guards wilI do sustained beating on the soles of the feet while

    a prisoner lying down on his or her back. Qaddafi’s regime has been

    very creative in this kind of torturing  It has new machines that 

    enable the prison guards to put a prisoner’s feet into a machine and

    it, in turn, will finish the job. The only thing a guard needs to do after

    setting the prisoner’s feet in the machine, is to sit up the time and

    the number of blows on the soles of the feet.[i]

 

3. Whipping:  It is a method of torture by which the prison guards will

     whip the back of a detainee while tied up into a wall.[ii]

 

4.  Standing: It a method of torture by which the prison guards will force

     a detainee to stand on the toes, then leaning against a wall for

     prolonged periods supported only by the index fingers.[iii]

 

5.  Submerging: It is a method of torture by which the prison guards will

     put or sink a prisoner below the surface of water (usually dirty water)

     until near suffocation.[iv]   

 

6. Forcing:  It is a method of torture by which the prison guards will force

    a prisoner to spend the night in a ditch filled with human excrement

    and heavy bricks above heads while remaining in an upright

    position until collapsing.

 

            7. Stripping: It is a method of torture by which the prison guards will

                put a prisoner into a cell (in Arabic called: Zinzanna) -- a small,

                dark, punishment cell used for solitary confinement--where he is

                held for many days, sometimes kept in iron shackles usually

                attached to his ankles and injured by chafing or while the shackles

                were hammered into place or pried apart.[v]

      

   8. Extinguishing cigarettes It is a method of torture by which the

       prison guards will put out their cigarettes that are burning on the

       skin of a detainee.[vi] 

 

   9. Depriving of medicine:  It is a method of torture to deprive a

       detainee from any medical treatment for serious illnesses or for

       injuries resulting from torture.[vii] For instance, the Amnesty

       International Report in 1997 cited the following case: “Jum'a 

       Ateyqa, a lawyer, remained in administrative detention at

       Abu‑Salim Prison. He is a diabetic and was suffering from

       unspecified liver problems. They tortured him by depriving

       him from his medications. He had been arrested in 1989 in

       connection with the murder of a  Libyan diplomat in Rome,

       Italy, in January 1985, but was acquitted by a criminal

       court in Tripoli in 1990. Jum'a 'Ateyqa had been living in

       exile until 1988, when he returned to Libya following a

       general amnesty issued by Qaddaf ”[viii]

 

   10. Depriving of food. It is a method of torture to deprive a detainee

         of food for several days (AI Report, 1985, p. 66). It has been reported that “Deprivation of food and water is very common tool of torturing                             prisoners in Libya”[ix]

 

   11. Depriving of sleep. It is a systematic sleep deprivation including

          forced standing for five to six hours alternating with sitting, over

          a period of days or even weeks.[x]

 

           12. Depriving of water. It is a method of torture to deprive a detainee                                          of drinking water for several days.

 

.                  13. Leaking: It is a method of torture which force a detainee to sit

                         under a leak from a ceiling for hours, while the drops of water

                         fill on the top of his head, and sometimes for the whole night.[xi]

 

                   14. Dragging a detainee behind a car. It is a method of torture by

                         which the prison guards will tie up a detainee with a rope behind

                         a car and drag him around.[xii]                                                                                                                                        

15. Chaining: It is a method of torture by which the prison guards will  chain a detainee to a wall for hours.[xiii]

16. Pouring: It is a method of torture by which the prison guards will

      pour lemon juice in open wounds and allowing the wounds to heal

      without medical care.[xiv]

 

17. Breaking fingers. It is a method in which a detainee fingers will be broken and allowing the joints to heal without medical care.[xv]                              

18. Corkscrewing: It is a method of torture by which the prison

guards will apply corkscrews to the back of a detainee and allowing

 the wounds to heal without medical care.[xvi]

 

19. Shocking: It is a method of torture by which the prison guards will

      apply electric shock to a detainee’s body.[xvii] For instance, in October

      (1997) the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, an Ethiopian

      non-governmental organization, wrote to the Libyan authorities calling

      for an investigation into the alleged torture of eight Ethiopian prisoners; 

      they reported that they had been subjected to electric shocks.[xviii] Another

      instance cited by Human Rights Watch, in 2006, stated that: “I confessed

      during torture with electricity. They put small wires on my toes and on my

      thumbs. Sometimes they put one on my thumb and another on either my

      tongue, neck or ear,”Valentina Siropulo, one of the Bulgarian defendants,

      told Human Rights Watch. “They had two kinds of machines, one

      with a crank and one with buttons.”[xix]

                                          

20. Suffocating   It is a method of torture by which the prison guards will  suffocate a detainee with plastic bags.[xx]

21. Hanging  It is a method of torture by which the prison guards will  hang a detainee by the wrists, suspension from a pole inserted between the knees and elbows.[xxi] 

 

            22. Attacking by dogs: It is a method of torture in which a detainee being

            exposed to aggressive dogs resulting in bite wounds.[xxii]

 

23. Placing in coffin: It is a method of torture by which the prison guards  will

 place a detainee in a coffin as a form of intimidation during  at least one

 interrogation session.

 

            24. Keeping in dark: It is a method of torture in which a detainee is kept in a

            basement and without any light for months. And sometimes  being held in

            underground cells so that prisoners are unable to lie down or to stand up fully,

            unsanitary, without any light, and extremely poorly ventilated with food reportedly

            being very poor and prisoners being denied exercise, visits, or correspondence.

            [xxiii] For instance, in Abu Salim prison it has been documented that is

            has underground rooms beneath the prison administration building which

            are used for interrogation.[xxiv] 

 

            25. Boxing: It is a method of torture by which the prison guards will

.           leave a detainee in an extremely small room that resembles a box  and

            is forced to sit on an uncomfortable chair for weeks, with hands

            tied behind the back. This method is constantly used in Qaddafi’s  prisons.[xxv]

 

26. Clubbing: It is a method of torture by which the prison guards will

 pull off by violent means the fingers and the toes of a detainee and  allowing

 the wounds to heal without medical care.[xxvi]

 

II. Psychological Torture and ill‑treatment:

In addition to the above physical techniques of torture, there are psychological       techniques that have been used frequently in Libya. These techniques include:

 

1. Insulting:  It is a psychological method of torture by which the

    prison guards will insult a prisoner or a prisoner's family. Threats of abuse against the prisoner and his/her family, particularly, female relatives are a very common in Qaddafi’s prisons.[xxvii]                                                            

2. Threatening: It is a psychological method of torture by which the

    prison guards will charge the prisoner with a capital offense. Death

    threats and threats of abuse against the prisoner and his family,

    particularly female relatives.[xxviii]

 

3. Watching: It is a psychological method of torture by which the

    prison guards will make the prisoners listen to or watch others being  tortured or looking at others after torture.[xxix]

 

4. Destroying: It is a psychological method of torture by which the

    prison guards will destroy the prisoner’s property (such as his house,

    car,  … etc) to deter others from doing the same.[xxx]

 

5. Broadcasting: It is a psychological method of torture by which the

    prison guards will listen to a broadcast repeated loudly and late into  the night, taped  political discourses in Abu Salim Prison where                                                      long‑term political prisoners and detainees are held. This practice is believed to be used to deprive detainees of sleep and to depress them.[xxxi]

 

6. Parading: It is a psychological method of torture by which the

                prison guards will parade the bodies of those who have been executed through the streets of the city in where they were executed. Sometimes the regime shows the process of execution on the television.[xxxii]

 

7. Overcrowding: It is a psychological method of torture by which the

                prison guards will put too many detainees in e very small cell.

                For instance, according to reports received by Amnesty International

                scores of political prisoners and detainees in Abu Salim Prison in

                Tripoli were killed during a one-week mutiny which reportedly

                started on 5 July 1996. The mutiny was said to have been caused by

                the appalling conditions in the prison. Political prisoners had

                reportedly complained on a number of occasions to the prison

                authorities about the lack of medical care, the inadequate hygiene,

                overcrowded cells and the poor diet. Some prisoners were said to

                be suffering from various diseases, including skin diseases, and

                had not been treated.[xxxiii]

 

8. Forcing: It is a psychological method of torture by which the

                prison guards will force detainees to read their false confession  on T.V. and Radio. These false testimonies include acknowledgment of the detainees that they were wrong and they seek mercy from the Qaddafi.

 

9. Deterring: It is a psychological method of torture by which the

                prison guards will deter others, especially the detainee=s relatives,

                from visiting, with his family members or helping them. Even

                contacting the detainee’s family might become a crime.

 

10. Humiliating: It is a psychological method of torture by which the

                  prison guards will force one female suspect to undress and threatening

                    to insert a lighted lamp into her vagina.[xxxiv].

 

11. Raping: It is a psychological method of torture by which the

                  prison guards will take female detainees out and raped often  when the guards tend to get drunk before the weekend on Thursday.[xxxv]

 

12. Threatening: It is a psychological method of torture by which

       the prison guards will threat a detainee of dog attacks or raping

                   his family.

 

13. Hanging: It is a psychological method of torture by which

                  the Qaddafi’s regime hanged some prisoners of conscience

                  (during the holy month of Ramadan) in order to install fear

                   in the hearts of anyone even think to challenge it. For instance,

                   two students were hanged before thousands of their fellow students

                   at Al Fatah University in Tripoli.No explanation was given of the

                   charges or of the judicial proceedings.[xxxvi]

 

III. Charges: What all of this for?

The type of charges which prisoners of conscience have been charged with include:

 

            1. Plotting against the regime or conspiring against the security of the

                state. This means that being accused of "desertion, treason, plotting

                against the internal and external security of the state”[xxxvii]

 

2. Associating: Membership in an illegal political organization, i.e., any

    organization or political party not in conformity with the regime in power.

    In 1984, eight people were hanged publicly following decisions of Basic

    People's Congresses in their localities that they were members of

    the Muslim Brotherhood.[xxxviii]

 

3. Possessing publications prohibited by the regime because they were

    classified as publications undermining the basic principles of the

    regime.[xxxix]  This prohibition includes all newspapers, magazines,

    and books that present different point views than what Qaddafi’s

    believes in. No one can criticize the Green Book nor question

    what Qaddafi has said. 

 

4. Criticizing the public order and/or public institutions (e.g., in Iraq

    the Revolutionary Command Council Resolution No. 840 prescribes

    the death penalty for publicly insulting the president of the republic

    or deputy, the Revolutionary Command Council, the Arab Socialists

    Ba'ath party, the National Assembly, or the government with the

    intent of mobilizing public opinion against the authorities.[xl]

 

           5. Violating: Being accused of "violation of the constitution and the

                nation's economic interests."[xli] By the way, Libya does not have

                a constitution since 1977.

 

         6. Obstructing revolutionary change (e.g., in Libya in February 1980 the

         official Libyan press published a declaration issued by the Third Meeting

         of the Revolutionary Committee at Gar Younis University, Benghazi).

         Several passages of the declaration authorized the "physical liquidation"

         of enemies of the Revolution abroad as well as of other elements said to

         be obstructing the revolutionary change in political or economic ways[xlii]  

         Qaddafi declared that "those who are put into Jamahiriya's prisons are

         there because they are the enemies of the  people and they fight for

         restoring the government above the people. There is no shame and

         there is nothing wrong in putting these persons in prisons or in

         treading on them with your feet.[xliii]

 

         7. Spying for the interest of a foreign country.

 

         8. Sabotaging and possession of weapons or other materials.

 

IV. Conclusion

 

      In the conclusion of this article one might ask, why all of this torture by the

      Qaddafi’s regime?  The simple answer could be summarize as follows: Gaddafi

chose to treat all of his political prisoners, with no exception,  this way for many reasons such as: First, to extracted false confessions from prisoners; to force them to give information; to force them to mention names or other political activities;

to force other prisoners to confess; and as a simple and effective means to humiliate, intimidate, and subdue them in custody. And second to install fear in the hearts of

all other citizens especially those who know the political prisoners or have hearted

about them.

 

Let me finally conclude this article by asking all those who still want to conduct

business with the Qaddafi’s regime the following question: Isn’t one of these            

crimes sufficient for a descent ruler, at least, to resign from his office? If the

answer is in the affirmative to the question, shouldn’t all freedom loving people

help the Libyan people to, at least, eradicate torture and to prosecute all alleged

perpetrators in their home land. I believe that helping the Libyan people to

accomplish this goal is not only a matter of principle rather it is the moral thing to do.

 


Endnote

[i]  AI Report (2001):  http://www.libyanhumanrights.com/Libya_%20In%20Amnesty%20

    International%20Report%202001.htm

[ii]  AI Report (1984, p. 353

[iii]  AI Report,1988, p. 243.

[iv]  AI Report, 1989, 85

[v]  AI Report, 1989, p. 280

[vi]  Human Rights Watch. (2008) “Libya: Serious Abuses Persist,” 50 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor.

      New York, NY 10118-3299. USA http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/01/03/libya17675.htm

[vii]  AI Report, 1988, p. 254

[viii]  AI Annual Report,1997

[ix]  Human Rights Watch. (2008) “Libya: Serious Abuses Persist,” 50 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor.

       New York, NY 10118-3299. USA http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/01/03/libya17675.htm

[x] Human Rights Watch. (2008) “Libya: Serious Abuses Persist,” 50 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor.

     New York, NY 10118-3299. USA http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/01/03/libya17675.htm

[xi]   A Libyan Journalist during what was called “the People’s Court” in 1970 testified that

      had to change his story because he was torture be putting him under a leak the whole night

      the night before.  This story was televised live to the Libyan people.

[xii]   During the student military training in the summer of 1974, in Al-Marj Military

      Barrack, a college student was dragged behind a car because he refused to shave

      his bread. At that time everyone has to shave his beard.

[xiii] Human Rights Watch. (2008) “Libya: Serious Abuses Persist,” 50 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor.

     New York, NY 10118-3299. USA http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/01/03/libya17675.htm

    U.S. Department of State “Libya: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  - 2002

      March 31, 2003. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2002/18283.htm

[xiv] Human Rights Watch. (2008) “Libya: Serious Abuses Persist,” 50 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor.

     New York, NY 10118-3299. USA http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/01/03/libya17675.htm

[xv] Human Rights Watch. (2008) “Libya: Serious Abuses Persist,” 50 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor.

     New York, NY 10118-3299. USA http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/01/03/libya17675.htm

    Libyan News: Views and Comments, edited by: Ashore Ashamis, “Loving Libya

     Jan 08, 2008 http://www.akhbarlibya-  

     english.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=267&Itemid=43]                                                      

[xvi] Transit Camps in North Africa,  10/11/04, 

     http://www.jesref.org/statement/index.php?lang=en&sid=79

[xvii] Libyan News: Views and Comments, edited by: Ashore Ashamis, “Loving Libya

     Jan 08, 2008 http://www.akhbarlibya-  

     english.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=267&Itemid=43

[xviii]   AI Report 2002

[xix]  Libya: Foreign Health Workers Describe Torture, 15-11-2005,

     http://www.xenomed.com/forums/medical-breakthrough/158-libya-

     foreign-health-workersdescribe-torture.html 

      Human Rights Watch (2006) “Libya: Foreign Health Workers Describe Torture.”

      November 15, 2006. http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2005/11/14/libya12013.htm

[xx] Transit Camps in North Africa,  10/11/04, 

    http://www.jesref.org/statement/index.php?lang=en&sid=79

   Human Rights Watch. (2008) “Libya: Serious Abuses Persist,” 50 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor. New York, NY 10118-3299. USA http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/01/03/libya17675.htm

[xxi] Human Rights Watch. (2008) “Libya: Serious Abuses Persist,” 50 Fifth Avenue, 34th Floor.

     New York, NY 10118-3299. USA http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/01/03/libya17675.htm

[xxii] Libya Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  - 2004

   Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 28, 2005,

   http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41727.htm

  Human Rights Watch (2006) “Libya: Foreign Health Workers Describe Torture.”

   November 15, 2006.   http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2005/11/14/libya12013.htm

   UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, January 1999

    http://www.unhchr.ch/huridocda/huridoca.nsf/(Symbol)/E.CN.4.1999.64.En?OpenDocument

[xxiii] AI Report, 1979, p. 70

[xxiv] UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, January 1999

     http://www.unhchr.ch/huridocda/huridoca.nsf/(Symbol)/E.CN.4.1999.64.En?OpenDocument

[xxv] UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, January 1999

     http://www.unhchr.ch/huridocda/huridoca.nsf/(Symbol)/E.CN.4.1999.64.En?OpenDocument

[xxvi]  Medical Foundation Condemns Libyan-UK "no torture" agreement:

     http://www.torturecare.org.uk/news/latest_news/70

     Libya: Serious Abuses Persist> in: Human Rights Watch

     http://hrw.org/english/docs/2008/01/03/libya17675.htm

[xxvii] UN Special Rapporteur, 1999

[xxviii] UN Special Rapporteur, 1999

[xxix] AI Report, 1980, p. 335.

[xxx] This was a common practice used all what Qaddafi’s regime classified as “stray dogs,”

    or the enemy of the revolution especially in 1980s.

[xxxi] U.N. Special Rapporteur, 1999.

[xxxii] This method was used in 1980s in the city of Benghazi when the Security forces of

    Qaddafi’s regime paraded the bodies of the Al-Jamma Al-Mugatila

    to scare the residents of the city.

[xxxiii] AI Annual Report 1996.

[xxxiv] Human Rights Report, U.S. State, 2003.

[xxxv] Eritrean, July 2007:

    Eritrean Refugees in Libya Facing Torture / Forcible Return to their Homeland

    http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=2835

[xxxvi]  The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook (1984).

     http://www.photius.com/countries/libya/national_security/libya_national

     _security_criminal_justice_sys~262.html

[xxxvii] AI Report, 1981, p. 66.

[xxxviii] The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factboo.

     http://www.photius.com/countries/libya/national_security/libya_national_

     security_criminal_justice_sys~262.html

[xxxix] AI Report, 1987, p. 338.

[xl] AI Report, 1987,  p. 347.

[xli] AI Report, 1981, p. 66.

[xlii] AI Report, 1980, p. 246

[xliii] AI Report, 1982, p. 335


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