Canada is calling Libyan diplomats on the carpet in Ottawa and Tripoli over reports of systemic torture by the country’s new interim government.
The diplomatic double-whammy is being delivered in both capitals by the Foreign Affairs Department in the form of a note, or demarche, expressing Canada’s displeasure over credible reports of torture and deaths of captured loyalists of dead dictator Moammar Gadhafi in Libyan prisons.
Two leading and respected international agencies – the rights’ watchdog Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders – sounded the alarm simultaneously on Thursday.
Amnesty said several detainees have died after being subjected to torture in recent weeks and months, and cited wide-spread, ill-treatment of Gadhafi loyalists.
Doctors Without Borders said it was pulling out of the city of Misrata because some detainees were brought for care only to make them fit for further interrogation.
The new leaders of Libya were helped to power by an air war waged by Canada and major allies, and have the backing of those Western governments.
“We are very concerned with these allegations. We will be raising these concerns with the interim Libyan government through official channels in Ottawa and Tripoli,” Joseph Lavoie, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said in an email Friday.
“Canada will continue to help Libyans build a fair and democratic society that respects human rights and the rule of law.”
The Libyan embassy in Ottawa did not return requests for comment.
Mr. Baird is in Davos, Switzerland, where he had accompanied Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the World Economic Forum earlier in the week. Mr. Baird is bound for Israel, where he will be accompanied by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on a trip that will last several days.
In Davos on Friday, the United Nations top human rights official told Libya’s new transitional government to take control of its prisons to stop further atrocities against inmates.
“There’s torture, extrajudicial executions, rape of both men and women,” Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told The Associated Press.
“Something has to be done immediately to assist the authorities for the state to take control of these detention centres.”
Ms. Pillay said various militias – the rebel groups who toppled the Gadhafi regime with the help of NATO-led air strikes – are holding as many as 8,000 prisoners in 60 detention centres around the country.
Ms. Pillay said she was concerned about the plight of the many sub-Saharan African detainees among that number because the militias assume they were supporters of Gadhafi.
Ms. Pillay said Libya’s new leaders would need help to take control of the prisons and run them properly.
Canada has already committed about $20-million to assist Libya’s new rulers.
Mr. Baird has said getting the guns out of the hands of Libya’s armed militias is a priority area for Canada’s future assistance for Libya, but the government has announced no specifics about its plans.
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