01 September 2009

In 15 pictures the evidence of tortures against refugees in Libya

ROME – Finally we gathered photographic evidence of the Benghazi massacre. Fifteen pictures in low definition, taken by a cell phone in order to overcome Libyan censorship. They show a group of men injured by knife. They are Somali refugees kept in the detention centre for undocumented migrants of Ganfuda, near Benghazi, after having been arrested along the route which leads from the Libyan desert straight to Lampedusa. You can see the scars on their arms, the wounds still open on their legs, the bandages on their back and on their head. Clothes are still stained with blood. On 11th August, when the Somali website Shabelle released the news of a massacre committed by the Libyan police in Benghazi, the Libyan ambassador in Mogadishu, Rabiic Canshuur, denied the report. This time, it will be a bit more difficult to deny these photos.

The pictures were first published on the Shabelle website. And today the Fortress Europe observatory raises it in Italy. According to an eyewitness we interviewed by telephone, the injured refugees would be at least fifty, mostly Somalis but also Eritreans. None of them was hospitalized. They all are still locked in the detention camp. Twenty days after the riots.

Everything happened on the evening of 9th August, when around 300 prisoners, mostly Somalis tried to escape. The repression of the Libyan police was terrible. Armed with batons and knives they attacked the rioters beating them blindly. At the end of the fighting, six refugees were dead. But the number of victims could be higher, since we don’t know the fate of a dozen Somalis who are reported to be missing.

The field of Ganfuda is located about 10 kilometers from the city of Benghazi. There, about 500 people are detained, mostly Somalis, together with a group of Eritreans, some Nigerians and Malians. They were arrested in the region of Ijdabiyah and Benghazi, during police raids in the city. They are accused to be potential candidates for the crossing of the Mediterranean. Many of them have been in jail for more than six months. Somebody for one year. None of them has been judged in front of a Court. Somebody is suffering scabies, dermatitis and respiratory diseases. The only way out from the prison is corruption, but the policemen ask for $ 1,000. The conditions of detention are very poor. In a cell of 5 meters by 6, there are up to 60 people. They eat bread and water. They sleep on the floor, there are no mattresses. And every day they are subjected to humiliation and harassment by the police.

On the matter, on 18th August, a group of deputies from the Radical party, presented an urgent interrogation to the Prime Minister and to the Foreign Minister asking “whether, in the light of the facts expressed above, Italy is not considering to ensure that, asylum seekers from Somalia, would no longer be pushed back to Libya”. Most probably the answer in the Parliament will be delayed. But, in truth, the answer is already known. The last deportation of 75 Somali, on 31st August, is its sad confirmation.