Libya: 'Anoud al-Senussi's abduction exposes country's inability to try Saif Gaddafi and others

‘How can the Libyan authorities claim that they are able to deliver fair trials … when they are manifestly unable to ensure the basic safety of detainees?’ - Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui

The abduction of ‘Anoud al-Senussi - the daughter of Libya’s head of military intelligence chief under Muammar al-Gaddafi, Abdallah al-Senussi -  immediately after she was released from prison in Tripoli yesterday raises serious concerns about the Libyan authorities’ ability to protect detainees held since the 2011 armed conflict, Amnesty International said.

‘Anoud al-Senussi was abducted by unknown assailants at around 5pm yesterday outside Al-Baraka prison as the judicial police escorted her to Tripoli International Airport. Upon her release - which the authorities had been delaying since 8 August out of fears for her security - she had planned to meet relatives before flying to Sabha in southern Libya.

The three-car judicial police convoy was ambushed by a group of masked men armed with heavy weapons, who reportedly shot in the air before abducting ‘Anoud and driving off to an unknown location. According to the Ministry of Justice, no one was injured in the attack and to date the motives of the abduction and the identity of the perpetrators remain unknown. Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Libya’s Minister of Justice, Salah al-Marghani, announced that investigations were under way and appealed to all Libyans, including the “revolutionaries”, for help in finding ‘Anoud.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

“This latest abduction and the ongoing lawlessness in the country demonstrate the inability of the Libyan authorities to fairly try politically-sensitive cases such as Abdallah al-Senussi and Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi and underscores the need to hand them over to the International Criminal Court.
“How can the Libyan authorities claim that they are able to deliver fair trials, and apply the law in the most prominent, politically sensitive cases, when they are manifestly unable to ensure the basic safety of detainees?”

Due to the sensitivity of ‘Anoud al-Senussi’s case, the authorities had been preparing her release procedures for several weeks, before the operation eventually went ahead yesterday afternoon. A previous release attempt was aborted on 26 August after a riot erupted in Al-Baraka prison, where several hundred detainees are held on charges related to the 2011 conflict. The detainees protested against delays in referrals to the prosecution and the judicial authorities’ inability to implement release orders. 
‘Anoud Abdallah al-Senussi, aged 21, was arrested last October following her arrival in Tripoli from Algeria, and sentenced to 10 months in prison on charges of using a forged passport and entering Libya on a forged document. She was intending to visit her father Abdallah al-Senussi, held in detention in Tripoli since 5 September 2012 despite an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant for his arrest. The office of the General Prosecutor recently announced that national proceedings against Abdallah al-Senussi and Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi will begin on 19 September, in a move that defies the ICC and sets the authorities on course to conduct flawed trials that can result in the death penalty.

The judicial police was significantly weakened by the 2011 armed conflict. Hundreds of officers failed to report back to work, and the Ministry of Justice was forced to integrate some 10,000 former members of armed brigades that fought against al-Gaddafi, who lack the necessary training and experience to handle detainees.

It is believed there are some 8,000 conflict-related detainees in Libya. Since the conflict, scores of detainees have been abducted by armed militias, and in some cases they have been tortured and summarily killed. These abductions have usually been carried out during transfers to courts or after release from prison - either as revenge for ordinary crimes or for acts allegedly committed on behalf of the former regime, or in some cases, for ransom. In some cases detainees have been abducted directly from prison.

On 18 April, for example, a group of armed men opened fire at a judicial police convoy carrying 14 detainees from the Prosecution in Bab Ben Ghashir area of Tripoli to al-Tadamon prison, killing one detainee, Anas Mliqta’, and injuring several others. Amnesty interviewed one of the injured detainees, who said that the judicial police had only provided one car for their protection and were unable to intervene during the assault. On 21 March, Jamal Hamadi was abducted - together with his brother and lawyer - immediately after his release from al-Hoda prison in Misratah.

The string of abductions is part of a wider problem of armed militias taking the law into their own hands. In recent months armed groups have attacked Libya’s Parliament and intimidated ministries in Tripoli. Libyan officials have acknowledged to Amnesty that detaining authorities often fail to implement release orders because of threats and pressure they face from those opposing court decisions, including militias.

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