Prison Torture in Libya 'Patients Who Had Been Electrically Shocked'

Doctors Without Borders suspended its work in the Libyan city of Misrata last week because prison officials repeatedly brought torture victims in for treatment -- only to return them to interrogation after they received medical care. SPIEGEL spoke with the group's general director, Christopher Stokes, about the situation in Libya.


SPIEGEL: Your organization has suspended operations in Misrata. Why?

Stokes: Because some officials have sought to exploit and obstruct our medical work. Our mission was to treat war-wounded detainees. Since then, doctors from Doctors Without Borders were increasingly confronted with patients who suffered injuries caused by torture during interrogation sessions. In total, we treated 115 people who had torture-related wounds, Libyans and foreigners from African countries whom they accuse of having been mercenaries for Gadhafi's regime.

SPIEGEL: How were the prisoners tortured?

Stokes: We have encountered bone fractures as a result of torture and we received patients who had been electrically shocked.

SPIEGEL: What have officials in Misrata said in response?

Stokes: We sent letter to the military council and the city council after 13 of 14 torture victims in early January were sent back to the interrogation center, although we had clearly requested that they be sent to a hospital. We didn't get a very clear answer. Some said that it happens everywhere; that it happened in Abu Ghraib so it can happen here as well. Since the letter, there have been four new cases. Enough is enough.

SPIEGEL: Is Libya on the way to becoming like it was under Moammar Gadhafi?

Stokes: No, it is not like that. The reason we know about the torture of detainees is the access we still have. The director of the detention center is very supportive, as is the National Transitional Council. The problem is those responsible for the interrogation centers. They do what they want.

Interview conducted by Christoph Reuter


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