The Libyan state is responsible for acts of unlawful detention, torture and other ill-treatment against Jawher Ali, known Libyan photographer, journalist and blogger, said Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) in a complaint filed today to the UN Human Rights Committee.
On 19 November 2019, armed men belonging to Joint Security Operations Room (JSOR) acting on behalf of the Libyan state, unlawfully detained Jawher Ali at its headquarters in Misrata. JSOR subjugated him to torture and other ill-treatment in response to comments of a peaceful nature that Jawher shared in a video on his personal social media account.
"Militias, including those affiliated to the State affiliated such as JSOR, continuously commit the most horrific human rights abuses with complete impunity in Libya. It is high time Libya publicly acknowledges its responsibility to investigate and prosecute these acts and puts an end to this impunity." – said Juergen Schurr, Head of Law at LFJL.
Jawher’s story is emblematic of the perpetual cycle of violations and abuses committed against journalists, media-workers, bloggers and activists. Since 2015, Jawher has been building a large following on social media networks with his work, having gained popularity by documenting air strikes that targeted civilian residences in Derna, eastern Libya, in February 2015, and collaborating with local and international TV stations including Al-Jazeera and France 24. Serious threats and risks of reprisals by armed groups controlling Derna drove him to leave his family and native town to go to Misrata, in western Libya.
On the evening of 18 November 2019, forces affiliated to the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF) conducted an airstrike targeting the city of Misrata, as part of an offensive against the Government of National Accord (GNA) and its allied forces. Jawher recorded the airstrike and the panicked reactions of Misrata’s residents on his phone. He then posted the video to his Snapchat account. Within less than 24 hours, Jawher’s video had been widely shared on social media with public comments and threats that included photos of him, his car and phone number. Due to his eastern Libyan origin and accent, Jawher was perceived to be a supporter of the LAAF and his comments in the video were considered as in insult to the people in Misrata.
On the morning of 19 November, Jawher was seeking protection from the police directorate when armed masked men ordered him to get out of his car, grabbing him by the neck and repeatedly hitting him over the head with a gun. The armed men forcibly covered Jawher’s face and drove to his apartment to seize his laptops, camera and microphone, claiming that he was a spy for the LAAF. After searching his apartment, the attackers drove Jawher to JSOR headquarters where he endured further brutal assault. He was repeatedly hit over the head with a chair, which Jawher described as an electrical shock all over his body and the most powerful pain he had ever felt. He was then hoisted in the air using a ‘falaka’ – a method of torture used to whip the soles of the feet, using large sticks and a rubber hose. The perpetrators took photographs of the beating and shared them on social media and news channels alongside degrading comments.
Jawher was forced into a small metal box, measuring one meter by one meter, with three small holes for ventilation, and left for four hours. He was then transferred to a prison cell with nine to ten other detainees. Despite sustained injuries, he received no medical assistance.
The armed men did not identify who they were. Other detainees informed Jawher that he was detained by JSOR, a militia group operating under the authority of the Government.
He was eventually released the next day and able to flee Libya for Turkey in December 2019, as he considers that it is not safe for him to live in Libya.
Jawher is unable to file a criminal complaint in Libya or pursue other domestic legal actions as Libya’s judicial system remains both dysfunctional and ineffective. LFJL call on the UN Human Rights Committee to order the Libyan state to provide reparations to Jawher, including compensation, a public apology and guarantees for his safe return to the country. LFJL recommends that Libyan authorities introduce changes to its legal and institutional framework to prevent similar acts from happening again, and to protect activists, journalists and others who are documenting the conflict and violations committed by state and non-state actors.
"I’ve put my hope for justice in the UN Human Rights Committee, as it’s one of the very few accountability mechanisms available to me and to other Libyans. I want to make the State of Libya and the perpetrators of human rights violations in Libya aware that victims will continue to make their voices heard until the day we get back our rights, including our right to express our opinion, to protection, and to justice." – said Jawher Ali.
For more information about the case, contact LFJL.