RT, a Russian-based television network shared that a recent United Nations report found extensive torture and brutal treatment of prisoners in Libya on Oct. 1. Many of the thousands of prisoners are believed to be former supporters of the late Muammar Gaddafi and have been imprisoned without any trial. Freelance militias hold many more soldiers, who are held under worse conditions, suspected of supporting Gaddafi.
The dehumanization of inmates is fueled by resentment and hatred between the victorious rebel forces and Gaddafi supporters, despite the conclusion of the Libyan revolution two years ago.
Lack of any semblance of oversight has also contributed to these squalid conditions. Despite torture being a criminal offense in Libya, some fear torture may become institutionalized over time.
Some might ask what good the Libyan revolution accomplished if this inhumanity and aggression endures. In two years, many of the armed militias that were essential to the rebels to overthrow the brutal Gaddafi regime have refused to disarm and continue to use their firepower as influence.
New laws passed by the National Transitional Council, the temporary government established in the wake of the revolution, gave immunity to rebel soldiers and ordered the trial or release of Gaddafi supporters by July 2012.
The General National Congress continues to try to rebuild Libya but is plagued by setbacks and disorganization. The current state of the North African nation, once one of the most affluent and developed in the continent, is in disarray. The Libyan revolution aimed to bring justice to millions of Libyans by removing the corrupt Gaddafi regime, but in doing so, it left the country without any strong central power.
When Gaddafi and his fellow military leaders staged their coup d’état against King Idris in 1969, they were removing a much-too-powerful figurehead and immediately replacing it with a realized – albeit corrupt in its own ways – democratic government.
Now, with the removal of Gaddafi, there is no government body poised to take his place. Instead, there is a void of leadership that the NTC and the GNC has yet to effectively fill.
It is this void that allows prison conditions to sink below humane levels and militant groups to work their own kind of justice. Libya is sinking into its worst political and economic standing in years. The country as a whole is divided between loyalists and rebels. Production of oil, the country’s main source of income, has all but completely stopped.
It may be several years before Libya installs a functioning government. Until then, if the U.N. has factual evidence of human rights violations, then some effort to remedy the situation must be made. Clearly the problems of Libya are greater than prison abuse, and ultimately it will be the Libyan people who resolve these issues.
Looking at the country’s recent history, fraught with revolutions, wars and the arming of several military and terrorist groups, one might be discouraged at its odds of success. But, in the scope of human history and human achievement, the fact of their revolution alone is evidence of a group of people determined to live better than the conditions forced upon them. That alone should inspire hope.