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Pillay condemns Libyan security forces violence against journalists

GENEVA (10 March 2011) – The UN High Commissioner for human rights Navi Pillay on Thursday condemned the detention and possible torture of an international news team as they sought to cover the situation in the western Libyan city of Zawiya.

“Journalists take great risks to ensure that an accurate picture of what is happening in conflict zones emerges,” Pillay said. "They play an extremely important role in bringing human rights violations to light. In this case, the crew’s own experience provides a graphic example of the types of violations that are being committed in Libya."

The BBC news team of three was reportedly beaten and subjected to mock executions by members of the Libyan army and secret police.

“For them to be targeted, detained and treated with such cruelty, which could amount to torture, is completely unacceptable and in serious violation of international law,” she added. "If an international television crew can be subjected to this type of treatment, it makes me extremely concerned about the treatment that is most likely being meted out to Libyan opponents of the regime who have fallen into the hands of the security services. The media must be allowed access to report what is happening in Libya, without facing either restrictions, intimidation or violence."

The High Commissioner noted that the journalists had reportedly observed terrible conditions in the detention centre where they were held, "including clear signs that other detainees had been subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment."

She said reports of the continued aerial bombardment of civilians and the use of military grade weapons and tanks on city streets were outrageous and would be investigated as possible crimes against humanity. Pillay also expressed her utmost concern over accounts she has received of summary executions, rapes and disappearances in the country.

Citing the ongoing formation of an independent international Commission of Inquiry into events in Libya, and the Security Council’s referral of the case to the International Criminal Court, Pillay said the members of security forces should not believe they can commit such acts with impunity.

“Be warned: whether you are ordering torture or carrying out the orders, you will be held personally criminally responsible,” she said.

ENDS

OHCHR Country Page – Libya: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/MENARegion/Pages/LYIndex.aspx

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For more information or interviews, please contact spokesperson Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 or rcolville@ohchr.org) or press officers: Ravina Shamdasani (+ 41 22 917 9310 or rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9383 or xcelaya@ohchr.org)