One year missing and imprisoned in Libya

At least 14 Libyans were arrested just over a year ago for planning a peaceful demonstration to mark the anniversary of the Benghazi events when security forces killed 12 demonstrators. Twelve of them now face unfair trials before a newly-created State Security Court. Two of them, Jum’a Boufayed and Abdelrahman al-Qateewy, have not been seen since they were arrested.  

On 1 February 2007, political activists Idriss Boufayed, Al-Mahdi Saleh Hmeed, Ahmed Youssef al-Obaidi and Bashir Qasem al-Hares, advertised the demonstration on news websites based outside Libya. They were arrested two weeks later, on 16 February 2007, along with Alaa al-Drissi and writers, Jamal al-Hajji and Farid Mohammed al-Zwai.

Idriss Boufayed, an outspoken critic of Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi and secretary general of the Libyan organisation National Union of Reform, has been critical of the political situation within Libya and its human rights record. He was arrested on 16 February 2007 at his family home in Gheryan.

A few hours later, his brother Jum’a gave a media interview over the phone describing how a group of armed men had come to the family home. He said they had broken down the door when nobody answered, taking his brother away.

During the interview, Jum’a Boufayed also said he feared that he too would soon be arrested for revealing this information over the phone. Jum’a Boufayed was indeed arrested later that day and the last time he was seen was two days later when he was taken back to the family house to pick up his mobile and computer.

The members of the group who have been charged are accused of vaguely worded offences including “attempting to overthrow the political system”, “possession of weapons and explosives with the intention of carrying out subversive activities” and “communication with enemy powers.” They are being tried before the State Security Court and could face the death penalty if found guilty.

Reports indicated that all have been held incommunicado for prolonged periods since their arrest and that at least two of them were tortured. During at least one interrogation session, they were reported to have been punched and beaten with sticks, subjected to falaqa (beating on the soles of the feet) and put in coffins to intimidate them.

They needed medical treatment as a result and, according to reports, do not have sufficient access to medical care. The group of prisoners currently detained in Ain Zara prison have not been allowed visits from their families since they were arrested, while those in al-Jadida prison have upon occasion been allowed to see their families.  

Amnesty International has called for their immediate and unconditional release should they have been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression. The organization has also expressed concerns about the reports of torture and urged the authorities to order a full, impartial and independent investigation into the matter.

Amnesty International has also called upon the authorities to ensure that the detainees are receiving access to healthcare and to lawyers of their own choosing, as well as allowing them to receive visits from their families. In the case of Jum’a Boufayed and Abdelrahman al-Qateewy the organization has called upon the authorities to immediately reveal their whereabouts and to ensure that they are being treated humanely.