Libya: Diplomat Dies in Militia Custody


Human Rights Watch
February 4, 2012

(Tripoli) – A Libyan diplomat who served as ambassador to France died less than 24 hours after he was detained by a Tripoli-based militia from the town of Zintan, Human Rights Watch said today. Dr. Omar Brebesh, who was detained on January 19, 2012, appears to have died from torture.

A preliminary autopsy report viewed by Human Rights Watch said the cause of death included multiple bodily injuries and fractured ribs. Photos of Brebesh’s body, seen by Human Rights Watch, show welts, cuts, and the apparent removal of toenails, indicating that he was tortured prior to death. Human Rights Watch also read a report by the judicial police in Tripoli, which said that Brebesh had died from torture and that an unnamed suspect had confessed to killing him.

“The torture and killing of detainees is sadly an ongoing activity by some Libyan militias,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “These abusive militias will keep torturing people until they are held to account. Libya’s leaders should show the political will to prosecute people who commit serious crimes, regardless of their role in the uprising.”

… According to Brebesh’s son Ziad, on January 19, his father voluntarily submitted to an investigation by the Al-Shohada Ashura militia at their base in the Tripoli neighborhood of Crimea. Brebesh had been called there for questioning by Commander Khalid al-Blehzi.

Brebesh entered the base at 5:30 p.m., said Ziad, who escorted his father. Ziad said he stayed inside for tea before being told to wait outside for the interrogation. After about 45 minutes, militia members took Ziad away to retrieve one of the family cars and a firearm. He returned later that night but was prevented from entering the area where his father was being interrogated.

The next day, January 20, following a visit to the Al-Shohada Ashura base, the family heard that Brebesh’s body had appeared at a hospital in Zintan, about 100 km southwest of Tripoli. Ziad’s brother Muhammad went there in the evening and described what he saw:

I saw his face. There was blood on his nose and mouth. But I didn’t see the rest of his body or his face from the other side. There was a bump on his forehead. After that, I kissed him and that was it. Later, when we saw the other side of his face at the hospital in Tripoli, it looked like his jaw was broken, like his face was not in the right place.

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