Amnesty International confirms detention of at least 6 individuals transferred from secret US custody to Libya

During its visit to Abu Salim Prison on 19 May 2009, Amnesty International was able to confirm the detention at the time of six individuals transferred from secret US custody to Libya, namely:

  • al-Mahdi Jawda, aka Ayoub al-Libi;
  • Majid Abu Yasser, aka Adnan al-Libi;
  • Abdelhakim Bilhadj Al-Kwaildi, aka Abdullah al Sadeq;
  • Khalid al-Sharif, aka Abu Hazem;
  • Sami Mustafa al-Saadi;
  • Hassan Raba’i, aka Mohamed Shara’ia. 

Two other Libyan nationals, transferred from Guantánamo Bay in December 2006 and September 2007 respectively, were also detained at Abu Salim Prison at the time of Amnesty International’s visit.

Amnesty has more details about one ghost-detainee:

Khalid al-Sharif, known as Abu Hazem, spent about five years detained in Libya before his release in March 2010. He agreed to talk to Amnesty International. He described his arrest by US and Pakistani forces in Peshawar on 3 April 2002 along with Mohamed Shu’iya, known as Hassan Ruba’i and his detention in various facilities in Afghanistan and Pakistan – in Peshawar, Islamabad, Kabul and Bagram.

He recounted being tortured in a detention facility in Peshawar, where he spent a week, by Pakistani officials who beat him with a leather belt and stepped on his injured foot, while being questioned by an American man. He also said that he was tortured while detained in Kabul for about a year, including by having icy water poured on him and being punched in the stomach. He also described being attached to the ceiling and left suspended for days and being handcuffed to an iron bar in uncomfortable position for months – the handcuffs were only removed for 15 minutes during meals, either once or twice a day. He was not allowed to shower during the time spent attached to the iron bar.

He said that in Kabul, he was interrogated and tortured by US officers. After about a year, he was transferred to Bagram in Afghanistan, where he spent another year before being taken to a US airbase and flown to Libya with Mahdi Jawda, aka Ayoub al-Libi in April 2005. He said that he did not know that he was being transferred to Libya until he reached the airport.

Upon arrival in Libya, he was held by the External Security Agency in Tajoura, where he was questioned and admitted to belonging to the LIFG. In December 2007, he was transferred to Abu Salim Prison. In April 2008, he was taken for the first time to the Department of Public Prosecutions in another district of Tripoli and told the charges against him. These included belonging to a banned group, the LIFG, and knowledge about armed actions and failure to report them. His trial began a month later, and he was able to appoint a private lawyer. At the time of Amnesty International’s visit, his trial was ongoing. The charges he was facing can lead to the death penalty in Libya. It was not clear if he was facing trial before a regular criminal court or before the State Security Court or another special court.

Amnesty adds that:

Despite the welcome abolition of the People’s Court in January 2005, a parallel legal system to handle cases “against the state” continues to exist. Detainees charged with offences “against the state” can be tried before the State Security Court, created in 2007, whose procedures do not satisfy international standards for fair trial. The court is reported to have heard some cases within the confines of Abu Salim Prison, where up to 1,200 prisoners were killed in June 1996.

Despite assertions that there are no prisoners of conscience in Libya and the use of counterterrorism rhetoric to justify repression, Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of individuals who have been arbitrarily detained and otherwise harassed for peacefully expressing criticism of the political system or calling for reforms and democratization.

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