The Commission documented 12 cases of men who died in custody in detention facilities controlled by thuwar brigades, local councils, and local military councils as a result of torture. It conducted interviews with family members of victims and current and former detainees who witnessed the crimes. It was also able to review the victims’ medical records including autopsy reports, photographic evidence and other audio-visual material. It also received second hand information regarding additional death in custody cases from current and former detainees and from Libyan and international human rights NGOs, and medical professionals. One Tripoli-based medical professional told the Commission that his hospital received 10 bodies of individuals bearing severe signs of torture between the fall of Tripoli in late August 2011 and 5 December 2011.341
The cases documented by the Commission fall into two broad categories: agents of Qadhafi’s security apparatus and perceived associates of prominent former government figures, and the Tawerghan community.342 The former have been arrested and detained by thuwar from different parts of Libya including Al Zawiyah, Garabulli, Misrata, Tajoura and Tripoli. Tawerghans have been arrested and detained, in almost all instances, by the Misrata thuwar. The recorded deaths took place between 12 September and 31 December 2011.
All victims in the first category were taken from their homes by armed thuwar without warrant or explanation for the arrest. With one exception, family members of victims were denied access to their relatives during their detention. The victims’ bodies were abandoned in various hospitals either dead or in a comatose state within periods ranging from the day following their arrest to six weeks. All victims – bar one – bore visible signs of beatings including severe bruising, lesions, abrasions, open wounds, burns and swelling indicating fractures. The Commission’s forensic pathologist, who examined all medical records and other available material, concluded that the injuries were consistent with the torture alleged. In the other case, the decomposition of the body was too advanced to determine whether there were specific injuries or not. The corpse was that of a former guard at Abu Salim Prison arrested by Tripoli thuwar on 19 September 2011 without warrant. His relatives searched for him for over two months in vain in several detention facilities in Tripoli, and surrounding areas, and also tried to find out if he was imprisoned in Misrata and Benghazi.
The Commission’s forensic pathologist documented the deaths of two men on 9 October 2011. According to witnesses, they were arrested together with other men on 17 September 2011 in Al-Zawiyah by a heavily armed group of local thuwar including members of the “Committee of Arrest and Correction of Injustice” and taken to Judayem detention centre. One of those arrested – released some three weeks later – told the Commission that he witnessed one of the victims being beaten with rubber hoses. That victim was briefly released on 8 October 2011, but re-arrested at his home within hours. The Commission was informed that authorities at the Judayem detention centre explained to the victim’s relatives that new facts emerged meriting further investigations. The following morning, his family was called by staff at Al-Zawiyah Hospital morgue to collect the body, which reportedly bore visible bruises on both arms, parts of the back, and thighs. The family told the Commission that the victim’s arms were swollen indicating fractures. There were also visible open wounds on his shoulder and back. An initial autopsy report, a copy of which was obtained by the Commission, indicated that the victim died as a result of “multiple blows, which led to the stopping of the heart”. 343 The second victim was brought to the Al Zawiyah Hospital on the same day in a comatose state, and died shortly after admission. The Commission was shown pictures of his body. Visible bruises and abrasions were visible on his whole body including his arms, legs, shoulders and thighs.344 The Commission’s forensic pathologist was of the opinion that the injuries are consistent with torture.
Another death in custody in Tripoli investigated by the Commission was that of a member of Qadhafi’s security forces deemed to possess information about other loyalists in hiding. According to his relatives, he was arrested by thuwar on 11 September 2011 and his last detention location was the former Internal Security Agency building in central Tripoli, believed to be under the control of local neighbourhood thuwar.345 On 25 October 2011, his family received an anonymous call from a Tripoli hospital and upon arrival found his body in the morgue. The Commission’s investigators were shown a death certificate issued on 27 October 2011, stating that the death was caused by heart and kidney failure triggered by beatings. The Commission also viewed video footage of the victim’s body, showing severe bruising, missing flesh, whip marks and open wounds.346 Another detainee died as a result of torture on 25 October 2011, some 10 days after his arrest by a group of armed thuwarfrom his neighbourhood, who neither presented a search or arrest warrant, nor explained the reasons for his arrest. An autopsy report seen by the Commission’s investigators corroborated his relatives’ testimony that the victim died as a result of severe beatings all over the body.347
The Commission also documented the death of another reported member of Qadhafi’s security agencies as a result of beatings and electrocution in mid-November 2011. The victim was arrested at his father’s house by some 90 armed men on 17 October 2011. The armed men composed of various thuwar from Tajoura, who did not present an arrest or search warrant, took the victim and four brothers and confiscated money, mobile phones and other valuables from the family homes. The brothers were separated during detention. Upon release, the victim’s brothers asked for his whereabouts at the local military council in Tajoura and various detention centres in Tripoli and Tajoura and approached different Tajoura thuwar brigades. In mid-November 2011, they received an anonymous call from a Tripoli hospital informing them that their brother was in intensive care. He died the following day.348 His body was covered in severe bruises, abrasions and swellings. Large pieces of flesh were missing from the soles of his feet and a finger. Upon examining pictures of the victim’s corpse, the Commission’s forensic pathologist found that in addition to severe beatings all over the body, there was evidence to suggest the victim was subjected to electric shocks.
A large number of the deaths in thuwar custody documented by the Commission were members of the Tawergha community. Most victims were arrested at checkpoints or taken from their temporary homes or IDP camps, where they found shelter after fleeing Tawergha. They were all apprehended by Misrata thuwar, who either transported them from the location of their arrest back to Misrata or detained them at their own brigades’ bases in Tripoli.
The Commission met family members of two Tawerghan men who were arrested, along with 47 other Tawerghan families including women and children, by Misrata thuwar on 27 October 2011 in Shawarif, some 400 kilometres south-east of Tripoli. One witness interviewed by the Commission noted that the thuwar belonged to the Independence Brigade (Katibat Istiqlal).349 All but nine men were released within a week. An elderly Tawerghan man detained with them stated that one of the men was severely beaten in front of the other detainees and lost consciousness for nearly two days before being transferred to Misrata. After his transfer, his family was informed on 16 November 2011 by a medical professional at a Misrata hospital that he had died after being brought to the hospital with fractures. His family members do not know the exact date of his death.350 The other man, a former Qadhafi soldier, was also transferred to Misrata and died on 2 November 2011 as a result of a fracture in the skull, according to an initial autopsy report obtained by the family and examined by the Commission’s investigators.351 The killings are examined in greater detail in Annex I, sect. III.F.
A Tawerghan woman living in an IDP camp in Tripoli recounted to the Commission that she was stopped at a checkpoint by Misratah thuwar in Tripoli at about noon on 12 September 2011 while driving with her family. The thuwar took her son-in-law and the car. Some three weeks later, her son-in-law’s body was discovered at the Khadra Hospital in the Abu Salim area of Tripoli. An initial autopsy report, examined by the Commission, states that he died as a result of a “nervous shock to the system” due to beatings. The death certificate stated that the victim died on 13 September 2011, or within a day of his arrest. The Commission obtained information, including an initial autopsy report, that three more Tawarghan men died in detention on 16 and 20 October 2011, and 2 November 2011, respectively.352
The Commission recorded another death in custody as a result of torture of a Tawerghan man at the hands of thuwar from Misrata. The man, a former soldier, was arrested along with four other Tawerghans on 31 December 2011 in Sirte, where they had travelled from an IDP camp in Benghazi to collect their pay checks. The group was held for about 18 days in various makeshift detention centres in Sirte and Kararim including two security compounds and an abandoned hospital. During their time in custody, they were consistently tortured or otherwise ill-treated, as detailed in Annex I, section III.F. The four surviving detainees told the Commission that the victim was removed from their cell at about midnight on 16 January 2012, never to return. The remaining members of the group were released following the intervention of thuwar from Benghazi.353
The Commission also received information concerning the death of the 13th detainee whose case stands out from others, documented above, who died as a result of torture inside detention centres. The Commission received a report from a detainee that a cell-mate had been shot and killed inside the Post Office (Barid) in Zintan, previously used as a detention centre. The perpetrator was reportedly a relative of a victim of unlawful killing during the armed conflict seeking revenge against detainees believed to be Qadhafi soldiers or loyalists. He was not a member of the Brigade controlling the facility, but was not prevented from firing his gun inside the cell at random without aiming at a particular target. Another detainee was injured in the attack. 354