NEW YORK — Armed militias now rule much of Libya, Amnesty International said Wednesday, accusing them of torturing detainees deemed loyal to the ousted regime of Moammar Gadhafi and driving entire neighborhoods and towns into exile.
Amnesty International quoted detainees as saying “They had been suspended in contorted positions; beaten for hours with whips, cables, plastic hoses, metal chains and bars, and wooden sticks and given electric shocks with live wires and taser-like electroshock weapons.”
At least 12 detainees had died since September after torture, Amnesty said. “Their bodies were covered in bruises, wounds and cuts and some had had nails pulled off,” the group said.
The report is a fresh blow to Libya’s new government, the National Transitional Council, which helped lead the anti-Gadhafi uprising that broke out one year ago this week and spiraled into a brutal, eight-month civil war.
Since the war’s end with the capture and killing of Gadhafi last October, the NTC has struggled to extend its control over the vast desert nation. It has largely failed to rein in the hundreds of brigades that fought in the war, many of which now run their own detention centers for those accused of links to Gadhafi’s regime.
Amnesty said it visited 11 detention camps in central and western Libya in January and February, and found evidence of torture and abuse at all but one.
“Nobody is holding these militias responsible,” Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International, told The Associated Press by telephone from Jordan on Wednesday, a day after she left Libya.
The U.N.’s top human rights official, and Amnesty International, have urged Libya’s government to take control of all makeshift prisons to prevent further atrocities against detainees.
“There’s torture, extrajudicial executions, rape of both men and women,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said on Jan. 27.
Some 2,400 detainees remain held in centers controlled by the new Libyan government, but the militias are holding uncounted thousands more prisoners, Amnesty said. Most are in and around Tripoli and Misrata, the coastal city that saw some of the war’s most brutal fighting, it said.