U.N. chief, Libyan PM meet at summit, discuss detainee treatment

Libya's interim prime minister has discussed reintegration plans for fighters such as those pictured on Friday near Bani Walid.

Story highlights

  • Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders alleged detainee torture
  • The medical group says it is halting work in Misrata detention centers
  • El-Keib has said a plan is in process for the partial takeover of Libyan prisons

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday met with Libya's prime minister during the African Union summit, and expressed "support for the interim government's work," according to a U.N. statement.

The summit is being held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, through Monday.

Ban and Abderrahim el-Keib, Libya's interim prime minister, discussed the security situation in Libya and reintegration plans for fighters, "as well as plans to improve conditions of detention," the U.N. statement said.

Last week, the human rights group Amnesty International said several detainees in Libya have died following torture.

The humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders said Thursday it was halting its work in detention centers in Misrata, Libya, because detainees are "tortured and denied urgent medical care."

The agency, known by its French name Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said it had treated 115 people with torture-related wounds from interrogation sessions. Two detainees died, one in October and another in November, within 30 minutes of being interrogated, Christopher Stokes, MSF general director, said.

In a statement, Amnesty International described "widespread torture and ill-treatment of suspected pro-Gadhafi fighters and loyalists," a reference to those who fought for the regime of former leader Moammar Gadhafi until his ouster and death.

El-Keib, in a televised address Wednesday night about Libyan affairs, said a plan was in progress for the partial takeover of prisons. And Libya's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammed Shalgham, told the U.N. on Wednesday that Libya does not approve detainee abuse and was working to stop any such practices.

In the meeting Sunday, Ban "commended the prime minister on the public consultation process for the electoral law and reaffirmed the commitment of the United Nations, particularly through the U.N. Support Mission in Libya, to continue to provide support in the areas of elections, security, human rights and transitional justice as requested by the authorities," the U.N. said.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, has voiced similar concerns about torture in Libya, prompting the response from Shalgham.

Pillay said the International Committee of the Red Cross had visited more than 8,500 detainees in about 60 places in Libya between March and December. The majority of detainees are accused of being Gadhafi loyalists, she said.

The issue is part of the difficulties Libya is having in law enforcement and security as the country transitions from Gadhafi's rule, she said. "The lack of oversight by the central authorities creates an environment conducive to torture and ill-treatment."

MSF said it was continuing its mental health activities in Misrata schools and health facilities.