from AHMED ZAYED in Tripoli, Libya
TRIPOLI, (CAJ News) – THE Russian captain of a ship detained by Libyan authorities three years ago has given insight to the serious human rights violations suffered by foreign nationals detained in the troubled North African country.
Apparently, the serious infringements are endorsed by the internationally-recognized government.
Among the violations that the captain of the Temeteron vessel , Vladimir Tekuchev, exposed include widespread torture, detention without reason, overcrowding, lack of legal representation, physical assault and lack of basics such as bedding.
These violations are rife at the Mitiga prison east of the war-torn capital city of Tripoli.
Of utmost weirdness is that the grave violations are at the detention facility, where bandits reign supreme, situated in a region under the control of the Government of Libyan National Accord, led by Prime Minister, Fayez al-Sarraj.
The ordeals of the Libyan and his two other counterparts from Russia, as well as five Ukrainians and one Greek citizen, started in late June 2016 when the Coast Guard arrested them some 17 miles (27 kilometres) off the Libya coast.
Such was the brutality of the armed men of the Coast Guard that the sailors thought they had been attacked by pirates, Tekuchev said in what is a rare interview given by a former detainee.
The sailors, who were held at gunpoint during the arrest, had their captors demand ransom of US$1 million, according to the captain of the vessel.
The captors took their valuables including mobile phones and money.
They were initially sentenced to five years on charges of smuggling oil but spent three years in prison, following which Tekuchev granted media the interview.
He recalled the sailors being thrown in a cell with an area of 11 – 12 square metres where there were usually some 27 or more prisoners in one cell. Some prisoners held solitarily were placed in some cells measuring din cells measuring 1,56m2 and could not lie down.
It is the same Mitiga prison that two sociologists- Maxim Shugaley and his interpreter Samer Hasan Ali – of the Russian Foundation for the Protection of National Values have been tortured.
They were arrested in Tripoli in May. Libyan prosecutors have slapped the pair with cumbersome charges of trying to influence the outcome of the next Libyan elections whose holding remains unclear because of the worsening political chaos.
Tekuchev pointed out many more foreigners were in the same predicament in the Libyan prison.
This includes a potential investor in Libya. The Franco-Italian businessman was periodically beaten in the three years spent at Mitiga and suffered tubercolosis.
Some detentions have been inexplicable, including the detaining of all passengers of an international airliner, when it made an emergency landing in Tripoli.
On the eve of the sailors’ arrest, Russian human rights activists accused the Libyan government of torture and kidnapping.
They advocated for the establishment of an international tribunal to probe the crimes.
United Nations humanitarian agencies report that over 5 000 foreigners, some refugees and migrant people, are currently being held at detention centres run by a government agency.
Of these, 3 800 are exposed to the fighting in Tripoli, waged by the Libyan National Army under Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
“I urge the Council now to call upon the authorities in Tripoli to take the long-delayed but much needed strategic decision to free those who are detained in these cenres,” Ghassan Salamé, the UN’s special envoy to Libya, recently urged the Security Council.
– CAJ News