The Commission describes in this section the phenomenon of arbitrary arrest and enforced disappearance. However, it notes that individuals who were the subject of arbitrary arrest were frequently also subjected to other violations of their fundamental rights. Accounts of those other violations can be found in their respective sections and are cross-referenced here.
The Commission confirmed its earlier findings with respect to arbitrary arrests by the Qadhafi forces.393 In the second phase of its work, the Commission interviewed 38 persons who had suffered arbitrary arrest, most of which were first-hand accounts of victims, or of those conducting the arrests. The Commission found that when persons were detained, they were not informed of the basis for the deprivation of liberty. They were not brought before a competent, independent and impartial court or other authority to have the lawfulness of their detention reviewed. They were not provided access to counsel. Rather, they were held beyond the reach of the law. Some appear to have been apprehended on the basis of to their place of origin or residence, those being used as indicators that they were supporters of the opposition.
Qadhafi’s security apparatus identified suspects in various ways. One former Qadhafi soldier interviewed by the Commission reported that lists of wanted persons were sent out from the “Operations Room”.394 Other persons were caught at demonstrations, or were identified after having been filmed, or were reported by neighbours as expressing anti-Qadhafi sentiment or disparaging the Government. Still others were caught up at a checkpoint with suspicious materials395 or caught up in wiretaps.396 Once identified, if the individual was not captured at a demonstration or at a checkpoint, the individual would be arrested at their home or their workplace.
Most interviewees reported being blindfolded upon their arrest and taken for interrogation in locations of the Internal Security Agency (Jihaz Al-Amn Al-Kharaji), External Security Agency (Jihaz Al-Amn Al-Dhakhli), military bases, or premises of the Military Intelligence. Due to the blindfolds, many were not able to tell precisely where they were taken.397 Some were later released while others were eventually transferred to prisons. The Commission visited a number of detention centres that had been in operation during the Qadhafi era. Interviewees described additional detention locations that appeared to operate outside the legal framework.398
Many individuals who were arrested by Qadhafi’s security forces described how they were beaten upon arrest and also subsequently, during interrogation (see chap. III, sect. D).
The Commission received information about disappearances from various sources. A number of those persons were found when the thuwar captured cities and released the prisoners held there, for example from Abu Salim, Ein Zara and other detention facilities around the country. However many of those disappeared have still not been found.399 The Commission has been unable to verify this number. In Misrata, 317 persons are still missing, while in Benghazi that number is estimated at 946.400 Tripoli
Arbitrary arrests were conducted on a large scale in Tripoli, especially following demonstrations. In one typical example, the Commission met with one former detainee who stated that, in February 2011, he and his father had been organizing the collection of information on the revolution and sending it to the international media.401 On 26 February 2011, when the two were in their house in Al Falah area in Tripoli, six four wheel drive pickups carrying a group of about 25 armed men in civilian clothes and carrying AK-47s and other guns arrived. They said that they were from the Popular Guard, although the interviewee later learned that others in the group were from Military Intelligence. The interviewee told the Commission how the men entered his house and arrested him, but his father escaped by jumping out from the house to their neighbour’s house. The men covered the son’s eyes using his T-shirt and tied his hands, put him in the vehicle and took him to the criminal investigation department (CID) in the Salahadeen military camp in Tripoli. There, he was reportedly beaten and locked in a cell with eight other persons. He was interrogated some time later. The interrogators asked him about who he was working with, where his father and other thuwar were, and where the location of their stores of weapons was. He told the Commission how, when he refused to answer the questions, he was beaten, threatened with execution, and then raped. He told the Commission about subsequent days of beatings and torture as the officers attempted to extract from him the location of his father.
The Commission has noted elsewhere in this report the situation with respect to unofficial detention centres under the Qadhafi government (see chap. III, sec. B and D).402 As the government lost control, detainees in many of these centres were either released or, in some instances, killed. Others were ultimately freed when people in the neighbourhood broke in and released them.403
In its first report, the Commission noted that persons who had been disappeared subsequently appeared on television stating their allegiance to the Government.404 The Commission noted that this practice stopped after the release of its first report and no further incidents were reported.