Libya: Libyan Woman Who Alleged Rape Against Soldiers is Freed But Says She is Prevented from Leaving Tripoli

Press Release
April 5, 2011

Libya: Libyan Woman Who Alleged Rape Against Soldiers is Freed But Says She is Prevented from Leaving Tripoli

Amnesty International Press Release
For Immediate Release
Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Libyan Woman Who Alleged Rape Against Soldiers is Freed But Says She is Prevented from Leaving
Tripoli, Says Amnesty International

Eman al-Obaidi Says She was Interrogated by Government Officials During Detention

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org

(New York) -- A Libyan woman, Eman al-Obaidi, who was detained after alleging that she was raped by members of Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s forces, has been released but says she is still concerned for her own safety and is now prevented from leaving Tripoli, according to Amnesty International.

On Sunday, April 3, video footage appeared on the newly established Libya Channel, carrying two interviews with al-Obaidi, which Amnesty International viewed.

During one of the interviews, al-Obaidi recounts that she was detained for three days by Libyan authorities. She says that during her detention she was interrogated by various government bodies including the Internal Security Agency, the External Security Agency, and General Intelligence. She was eventually brought to the Department of Public Prosecutions, which promised to open an investigation into her rape allegations.

During the second interview, al-Obaidi said that she was forcibly taken from her home by armed men in plain clothes for "criminal investigations," and released within hours without being provided with an explanation for her arrest. This incident appears to have occurred after her release, but the exact details are unknown.

During the interviews she expressed fears regarding her safety in Tripoli, and said she wishes to return to Tobruk in eastern Libya to be reunited with her family. She mentioned that she had been prevented by the Libyan authorities from leaving Tripoli.

Amnesty International is demanding that Libya allow her to travel freely.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Eman al-Obaidi was forcibly dragged out of the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli by plain clothed Libyan security officials on Saturday, March 26 when she tried to speak to foreign journalists and alleged that she had been detained and raped by members of Colonel al-Gaddafi’s security forces. She shouted: "Look what they have done to me," pointing to bruises on her body, as she was forced into an unmarked car and driven to an unknown destination.

The Libyan government has not disclosed the reason or legal basis for her detention. Rather than investigating her allegations of rape and other torture or ill-treatment they have sought publicly to discredit her, claiming that she is mentally unbalanced and accusing her of being a prostitute.

According to the authorities, the men in the security forces accused of rape deny it and are bringing a charge of defamation against her; it is unclear whether this is a civil claim or a criminal case backed by the government.

Gross and systematic human rights violations have been committed with total impunity throughout the more than 40 years of Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi’s rule in Libya, including arbitrary arrest and detention without trial, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, unfair trials and extrajudicial executions. The Libyan authorities have not tolerated dissent, including peaceful criticism of calls for change, and have routinely locked up those who have sought to exercise their right to freedom of expression.

Women are subject to discrimination in both law and in practice. Women who are victims of rape and other sexual violence are generally reported to be reluctant to report these crimes to the authorities both because this can lead them to being accused of adultery - a "crime" punishable up to five years imprisonment or flogging- and because it might be considered shameful to be a victim of such crime and an affront to family honor.