Gaddafi's Campaign Of Disappearances

March 29, 2011

14 year old Mohamed al-Aqeeli is one of the disappeared © Amnesty International

Atef ‘Abd al-Qader Al-Atrash, a prominent blogger and father of two, was last seen attending a gathering near Benghazi’s port on February 17, when he is believed to have been seized by forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddafi. A relative of his told Amnesty that, when trying to call his phone, a strange man answered and said, “This is what happens to those who throw stones at us.”

A relative of a 14-year-old schoolboy Hassan Mohammad al-Qata’ni gone missing on February 20th told Amnesty researchers:

“I haven’t slept since he’s gone missing, nobody in my family has slept; we are so worried; he is just a kid; we don’t know what to do, where to look for him, who to turn to for help.”

A brother of another individual taken by Gaddafi’s forces on March 6th said he received subsequent phone calls from Gaddafi’s forces using the his brother’s phone in which they reportedly threatened: “We will burn you along with your family, your mother and siblings.”

As rebel forces seized control of Benghazi and pro-Gaddafi forces retreated, they appear to have seized a number of protesters, including children.  As the conflict deepens, disappearances have continued, in an apparent attempt by Gaddafi’s forces to crush growing opposition.

Amnesty International’s team in Libya details more than 30 cases of individuals who have disappeared since before protests began in a new report released today.  These individuals include government critics, writers, journalists, pro-democracy activists — even children.  The total number of people who have disappeared is likely much higher.

It appears that there is a systematic policy to detain anyone suspected of opposition to Colonel al-Gaddafi’s rule, hold them incommunicado detention, and transfer them to his strongholds in western Libya. These individuals are likely at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment.

This outrageous campaign is in violation of international law and must be stopped. All those who are detained simply for peaceful activities in support of the protests must be released immediately and given safe passage home.

Colonel al-Gaddafi and his supporters should allow immediate independent access to those detained in order to check on their safety and help protect them from torture, and to inform their families of their whereabouts. Those holding detainees must ensure that all alleged or known fighters who are captured are treated humanely in line with international law, and provided with immediate access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Read the full briefing, Libya: Detainees, Disappeared and Missing