Amnesty International Demands Release of Two British Journalists Detained in Libya

February 28, 2012

Amnesty International Demands Release of Two British Journalists Detained in Libya

Detention By Militia Part of a Broad Pattern of Rights Abuse in the New Libya

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 212-633-4150

(New York) -- Two British journalists and their Libyan colleagues held by a Libyan militia must be set free immediately or transferred into government custody, Amnesty International said.  

Amnesty International said the journalists' unlawful detention is another example of armed militias operating outside any legal framework and in defiance of the central authorities' call for militias to disband and join the armed and security forces.

Nicholas Davies-Jones, Gareth Montgomery-Johnson and their Libyan colleagues have been held by the Suweihli militia since their capture in Tripoli on the morning of February 21.

The Suweihli militia -- which operates out of Misratah but has operatives in Tripoli and elsewhere in the country -- seized the men while they were reportedly filming in the capital. It accuses the two British men of entering the country without visas.

"The detention of these journalists is unlawful and arbitrary, and their captors in the Suweihli militia must either release them immediately or transfer them into the custody of the central Libyan authorities," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Amnesty International.

The British journalists' families told Amnesty International they remain concerned for the men's safety and wellbeing.   

U.K. authorities informed the families that British embassy staff in Tripoli visited the two journalists on at least two occasions and that the men were in good health but very tired.
A Libyan Interior Ministry official confirmed that the Suweihli militia is holding Davies-Jones and Montgomery-Johnson.

On Tuesday morning, a representative for several Misratah militias operating in Tripoli confirmed that the men were still being held at the Suweihli militia headquarters in Tripoli.

Nothing is known about the identity and situation of the Libyan men who were detained with the British journalists.

Thousands of Libyans and hundreds of foreign nationals -- mainly Sub-Saharan African migrants and refugees -- are currently arbitrarily detained by armed militias who behave as if they are above the law.

Others are held in detention centers now under the control of the central authorities, but virtually none has so far been formally charged or brought to trial.   

During a recent month-long fact-finding mission to Libya, Amnesty International visited 11 detention facilities across the country.  

Many detainees said they had been tortured and Amnesty International saw torture marks and wounds resulting from recent abuse. Torture methods used by the militias included suspension in contorted positions; beatings for hours with whips, cables, plastic hoses, metal chains and bars, and wooden sticks; and the administering of electric shocks.

The recent report Militia threaten hopes for new Libya documented these findings and called for the closure of all unofficial detention facilities in Libya.   

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom and dignity are denied.

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