At the heart of the two reports by Human Rights Watch reports on the treatment of prisoners in both government and Libya Dawn jails is an indictment of the International Criminal Court for failing to pursue a single case against anyone in post-Revolutionary Libya who is alleged to have abused human rights.
HRW has long been pressing ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to take some sort of action against Libyan suspects. It has repeatedly cited the court’s jurisdiction over war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed here since the start of the Revolution.
In its latest report on deplorable conditions in four Libya Dawn prisons in Tripoli and Misrata, HRW showed little patience with Bensouda’s refusal to act. The chief prosecutor has claimed that a lack of resources has limited probes into alleged crimes by Qaddafi regime officials during the uprising.
The harsh reality is that Bensouda has not initiated a single investigation of allegtions made against anyone since the toppling of Qaddafi. Moreover, its pursuit of two cases, those of the dictator’s heir apparent Saif Al-Islam and his security chief Abdullah Senussi have been bafflingly contradictory.
Thus Bensouda has pressed on with demands that Saif, currently held by Zintanis, be handed over to the court in the Hague because it believed he would not receive a fair trial. However, at the same time she has said that Senussi could be tried in Libya because she believed the prosecution would be fair. Yet both Saif and Senussi have been sentenced to death after being found guilty at the self-same trial that has been condemned by international jurists.
Bensouda has yet to explain this variance.
Meanwhile HRW is insisting that the UN Security Council, to which the ICC reports, should give the court’s prosecutors sufficient support and resources to work on crimes that have been committed in Libya since the Revolution. These, it says, embrace grave abuses including torture and arbitrary detention.
In parallel with such moves, HRW is also pressing the Security Council to push ahead with targeted sanctions on individuals and organisations in Libya as well as speeding up the existing arms embargo.
It has also pointed out that in addition to the thus-far neglected responsibilities of the ICC in Libya, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been charged since this July with conducting its own probe into arbitrary detention, torture and ill treatment in the country’s detention centres.