• Press Release

Amnesty International Describes Enforced Disappearances in Besieged Nafusa Mountain Region of Libya; Says People Taken Were Involved in Peaceful Protests

May 27, 2011

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

(New York) — Scores of people have vanished from Libya's Nafusa Mountain area apparently at the hands of forces loyal to Colonel al-Gaddafi, Amnesty International said today in a new report that describes deteriorating conditions in the western region of the country

The report, titled, "Libya: Disappearances in the Besieged Nafusa Mountain as Thousands Seek Safety in Tunisia," details cases of disappearances of people who are believed to have been taken to Tripoli from Nafusa Mountain, which has been under siege and fire from pro-Gaddafi forces since early March.

"It is outrageous that the families of these men have absolutely no idea what has happened to them," said Amnesty International.

"Given what we know about the treatment of prisoners by the Tripoli authorities, there is every reason to fear for their safety and wellbeing."

The organization called on the Tripoli authorities to immediately release all those detained solely for peaceful protest, and to ensure that any alleged or known fighters were treated humanely and in accordance with the requirements of international law.
Nafusa residents believe that soldiers targeted people they believed were involved in protests, supported the opposition, or were organizing supplies to the besieged region.

Family members told Amnesty International of relatives who were detained by al-Gaddafi forces when they went to buy basic necessities. Some have subsequently appeared on Libyan state television "confessing" to acting against the country's best interests, but most have simply vanished.

A 37-year-old father from the town of Nalut, who had taken part in peaceful protests, disappeared after he went with a relative and a friend to get spare parts for his car in early March.

His family repeatedly called his phone until he finally answered, hastily saying: "I am going to Tripoli, take care of the kids." Since then his phone has been switched off. Hs family believes that he is being held in Ain Zara Prison in Tripoli.

In March Amnesty International documented a campaign of enforced disappearances against opponents of Colonel al-Gaddafi in eastern Libya.

Amnesty International also called on Tripoli to cease the almost daily indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas in Nafusa Mountain by pro-al-Gaddafi forces, including the use of Grad rockets, which are inherently indiscriminate weapons.

In early April al-Gaddafi troops surrounded the town of al-Qalaa and fired Grad rockets at it. According to reports, the hospital and mosque as well as several houses were shelled, farms were destroyed and livestock killed.

The organization said there was an urgent need for all parties to the conflict to guarantee the safe passage of humanitarian organizations to the area as conditions for those living there grew more and more difficult.

People who had fled the area to Tunisia told Amnesty International of dwindling food supplies, particularly fresh produce and baby milk.

They said that water was running short as al-Gaddafi forces had deliberately destroyed some water wells and that the main water wells, in areas controlled by al-Gaddafi forces, were damaged.

"The Tripoli authorities cannot hope to starve the Nafusa Mountain into submission," said Amnesty International.

"They must immediately lift restrictions on access to water, electricity, fuel and other basic necessities."

The report is largely based on a fact-finding visit to Tunisia where Amnesty International met people who had fled from the Nafusa region.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with 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, truth and dignity are denied.

# # #