UN Rights Chief Denounces Violence Against Journalists by Libyan Security Forces

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–10 March 2011 – The top United Nations human rights official today condemned the detention and possible torture of three journalists working for the British Broadcasting Corporation by Libyan security forces, stressing that the media must be allowed access to report what is happening inside the country.

The three were trying to cover the situation in the western city of Zawiya when they were detained and reportedly beaten and subjected to mock executions by members of the Libyan army and secret police. 

“Journalists take great risks to ensure that an accurate picture of what is happening in conflict zones emerges,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. “They play an extremely important role in bringing human rights violations to light. In this case, the crew’s own experience provides a graphic example of the types of violations that are being committed in Libya.” 

The North African nation has been in turmoil since mid-February when protesters took to the streets demanding the ouster of long-time leader Muammar Al-Qadhafi. The ensuing violence has caused hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, with most crossing over into neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt. 

Ms. Pillay said that for a news team to be targeted, detained and treated with such cruelty, which she said could amount to torture, is “completely unacceptable” and in serious violation of international law. 

“If an international television crew can be subjected to this type of treatment, it makes me extremely concerned about the treatment that is most likely being meted out to Libyan opponents of the regime who have fallen into the hands of the security services,” she stated. 

“The media must be allowed access to report what is happening in Libya, without facing either restrictions, intimidation or violence.” 

She noted that the journalists had reportedly observed terrible conditions in the detention centre where they were held, “including clear signs that other detainees had been subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.” She also voiced concern about reported aerial bombardment of civilians and the use of military grade weapons and tanks on city streets, as well as accounts of summary executions, rapes and disappearances in the country. 

The High Commissioner reminded security personnel that they will be held accountable for their actions. “Be warned: whether you are ordering torture or carrying out the orders, you will be held personally criminally responsible,” she said.