Those escaping tell of indiscriminate shelling and dwindling food supplies
Scores of people have vanished from Libya’s Nafusa Mountain area apparently at the hands of forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddafi, Amnesty International said today as it released a new report into deteriorating conditions in the western region of the country.
Amnesty‘s 18-page report, “ Libya: Disappearances in the besieged Nafusa Mountain as thousands seek safety in Tunisia ”, details cases of people who have “disappeared” and are believed to have been taken to Tripoli from Nafusa Mountain, which has been under siege and fire from pro-Gaddafi forces since early March.
Nafusa residents believe that soldiers have targeted people they believed were involved in protests, supported the opposition, or were organising supplies to the besieged region.
Family members told Amnesty of relatives who were detained by al-Gaddafi forces when they went to buy basic necessities. Some have subsequently appeared on Libyan state television “confessing” to being pressured to act against the country’s best interests, but most have simply vanished.
A 37-year-old father from the town of Nalut, who had taken part in peaceful protests, disappeared after he went with a relative and a friend to get spare parts for his car in early March. His family repeatedly called his phone until he finally answered, hastily saying: “I am going to Tripoli, take care of the kids.” Since then his phone has been switched off. His family believes that he is being held in Ain Zara Prison in Tripoli.
Amnesty is calling on the Tripoli authorities to immediately release all those detained solely for peaceful protest, and to ensure that any alleged or known fighters are treated humanely and in accordance with the requirements of international law.
Amnesty International said:
“It is outrageous that the families of these men have absolutely no idea what has happened to them.
“Given what we know about the treatment of prisoners by the Tripoli authorities, there is every reason to fear for their safety and wellbeing.”
Amnesty also called on Tripoli to cease the almost daily indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in Nafusa Mountain by pro-al-Gaddafi forces, including the use of Grad rockets, which are inherently indiscriminate weapons.
In early April al-Gaddafi troops surrounded the town of al-Qalaa and fired Grad rockets at it. According to reports, the hospital and mosque as well as several houses were shelled, farms were destroyed and livestock killed.
Amnesty said there was an urgent need for all parties to the conflict to guarantee the safe passage of humanitarian organisations to the area as conditions for those living there grew more and more difficult. People who had fled the area to Tunisia told Amnesty of dwindling food supplies, particularly fresh produce and baby milk. They said that water was short as Gaddafi forces had deliberately destroyed water wells and that the main water wells, in areas controlled by Gaddafi forces, were damaged.
Amnesty International added:
“The Tripoli authorities cannot hope to starve the Nafusa Mountain into submission.
“They must immediately lift restrictions on access to water, electricity, fuel and other basic necessities.”
Note to editors:
The report is largely based on a fact-finding visit to Tunisia between 6 and 20 April 2011, when Amnesty met people who had fled from the Nafusa region.