According to Amnesty International, death sentences in eastern Libya were politically motivated to punish opponents.
At least 22 people have been sentenced to death by military courts in eastern Libya since 2018. Amnesty International described this as “shameful, tortured” trials aimed at suppressing dissent in the war-torn country.
The international rights watchdog said on Monday that military courts had “sentenced hundreds of civilians in eastern Libya in secret and grossly unfair military trials”.
The trials aimed to “punish real or perceived opponents and critics” by forces loyal to the east-based renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.
Those convicted include journalists, peaceful protesters and people who criticized Haftar’s armed forces on social media.
Oil-rich Libya has been torn by conflict since the overthrow and assassination of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising a decade ago.
The country was then divided between two rival administrations: the United Nations-recognized government based in Tripoli and its rival in the east, who remains loyal to Haftar.
Fighting stopped last summer and a formal ceasefire in October was followed by the formation of a new unity government ahead of the December elections.
Amnesty said former detainees interviewed “compiled a detailed catalog of ill-treatment”, including “kidnapped and imprisoned for up to three years”, before being tried before a military tribunal.
Others said they had been “detained for up to 20 months without exposure to the outside world” and reported being “beaten, threatened and aboard water” and “forced to sign” confessions “for crimes they did not have committed “, so the rights group.
Amnesty’s Diana Eltahawy said military trials were used by the Eastern Forces as a means of punishing opponents and creating a “climate of fear”.
Sometimes trials were held without attorneys or even without the defendants present, “to undermine any semblance of justice,” Eltahawy said.
“The use of military trials on civilians is an obvious smoke screen that the LAAF is working with [Libyan Arab Armed Forces] and affiliated armed groups are using their power to punish those who oppose them and create a climate of fear, ”Eltahawy said.
It wasn’t clear whether the 22 death sentences had been carried out, but Amnesty said Libyan rights groups reported at least 31 executions between 2018 and 2020.
The new unity government “must immediately end the military trial against civilians and order investigations into torture and other international crimes committed by armed groups,” Amnesty said.