Libyan prisoner of conscience Jamal el-Haji released

Amnesty International has welcomed the release of a Libyan prisoner of conscience who was arrested for complaining of ill-treatment by the authorities.Jamal el-Haji was acquitted of charges of insulting the judicial authorities by the State Security Court on Wednesday, after more than four months in detention. “We are very relieved that Jamal el-Haji, who should not have been arrested in the first place, has now gone back to his family,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme. “The Libyan authorities must now respect Jamal el-Haji’s right to freely express his views about the human rights situation in Libya and guarantee that his right to freedom of movement, including his right to leave Libya, is upheld.”The writer, who also has Danish citizenship, was then reportedly denied the right to travel by the Internal Security Agency, an intelligence body, after his release in March 2009. Jamal el-Haji was arrested on 9 December 2009 after making an official complaint to Mustafa Abdeljalil, Secretary of the General People’s Committee for Justice (equivalent to the Minister of Justice).In the complaint, he recounted human rights violations he suffered during his previous detention between February 2007 and March 2009. He described his unlawful arrest by members of the Libyan security forces, the ill-treatment he endured in detention and breaches of his right to a fair trial. He also criticized shortcomings in the administration of justice, as well as the Libyan authorities’ failure to uphold their international human rights obligations.His trial in front of the State Security Court started on 17 February 2010. Amnesty International has urged the Libyan government to continue tackling human rights violations, following the Libyan authorities’ recent release of a number of individuals detained arbitrarily. Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, the son of the Libyan leader, played a major role in securing their releases and said that 80 of those freed were detained despite being cleared by courts of all charges. Others remain detained with no legal basis. These include Mahmoud Mohamed Aboushima, who is held in Abu Salim Prison despite a High Court decision in July 2007 clearing him of charges of belonging to a banned group. On Thursday, Amnesty International sent a comprehensive memorandum to the Libyan authorities and the Gaddafi Development Foundation, headed by Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, detailing ongoing human rights concerns. The over one hundred page document focuses on the administration of justice; the application of the death penalty and corporal punishment; impunity for past human rights violations; and the situation of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants in Libya. “We have written to the Libyan authorities calling on them to continue to take concrete steps to address ongoing human rights concerns and to build on recent positive developments to ensure long-lasting improvements of the human rights situation.” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.