LIBYA: Rights Body urges End to Attacks by Authorities
TRIPOLI, February 18, 2011 (CISA) -Amnesty International is calling on the Libyan government to end its clampdown on peaceful political activists after violence erupted at demonstrations in the city of Benghazi following arrest of activists.
Hundreds of people took part in demonstrations on Wednesday following the arrests of Fathi Terbel and Fraj Esharani, both members of the Abu Salim families’ organising committee set up by relatives of victims of a prison massacre in 1996, and three other activists.
They were leading calls for a major demonstration on February 17 in support of calls for far-reaching political reforms, inspired by similar protests in Tunisia and Egypt.
“The Libyan authorities must allow peaceful protests, not try to stifle them with heavy-handed repression,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Libyans have the same rights as Egyptians and Tunisians to express discontent and call for reform in their own country, and it is high time the Libyan government recognized that and respected it,” Smart added.
He further said, “People should not be locked up simply because they call for peaceful protests. Libyans have a right to expect reforms, not arrests, detentions and further state repression.”
Fathi Terbel and Fraj Esharani were released after being detained for several hours. However, it is unclear whether Boubaker Mohamed al-Alouani and Salem Mohamed al-Alouani, both members of the Abu Salim families’ organizing committee have been released.
The rights body said that Libyan authorities have a responsibility to maintain public order and to uphold human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“Libyans must be allowed to express themselves freely and hold peaceful protests in Libya,” the Amnesty International Director for the Middle East and North Africa said.
Fathi Terbel, a member of the protest organizing committee, told Amnesty International that the arrests were linked to their calls for accountability over the deaths more than 1,000 inmates at Abu Salim prison in 1996 and for greater political and human rights freedoms in Libya.
Crowds gathered outside a security forces building in Benghazi calling for the release of the two activists and security forces then used tear gas and water canons to disperse the protesters. More than a dozen people were reported to have been injured after the protestors later clashed with supporters of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, in power since 1969, in Benghazi’s Shajara Square and Jamal Abdennacer street.