The Libyan authorities must put an end to the harassment and intimidation of two sisters allegedly accused of supporting the country’s former leader, Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi.
Hasna Shaeeb and her sister Hala have been threatened, arbitrarily detained, interrogated and released without charge several times in the last two weeks. Both women have had their passports confiscated.
Hasna and Hala were taken from their home in Tripoli on 4 September by a group of around ten armed men who identified themselves as belonging to Katibet Isnad al-Amn, a security force reporting to the Ministry of Interior. They were given no reason for their arrest and their relatives were not initially told where they were being taken. They were eventually detained at Riwami Prison, under the control of the Supreme Security Committee.
During her detention, Hasna Shaeeb was reportedly questioned about her alleged support for the former government and whether she owned a weapon. Both women were released without charge on 7 September but their passports were withheld. Following their release, Hasna was called back for questioning on 8 September and allowed to leave after signing a statement. Both women were recalled to Riwami the next day, allegedly for further questioning and were detained until 11 September when they were released without charge. Hasna is believed to face another arrest warrant on unknown charges issued on the orders of Katibet Isnad al-Amn.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Director Philip Luther said:
“The Libyan authorities must clarify whether or not Hasna and Hala Shaeeb face any charges filed by the general prosecution. If they do not, they should ensure that the two women’s passports are promptly returned to them and all necessary steps taken to ensure they are protected from further harassment or intimidation.
“The harassment of Hasna and Hala Shaeeb is a strong example of the need for the Libyan authorities to prioritise the establishment of the rule of law and respect for human rights.
“Unless immediate action is taken to stop abuses committed by those who continue to act above the law, a large shadow will be cast on the ability of the country to break with the past four decades of abuses.”
Hasna Shaeeb was previously detained for three days in October 2011 after being abducted from her home by a group of armed men in militia dress. She has told Amnesty that she was given electric shocks, beaten and whipped until she lost consciousness and had urine poured on her. She said that the guards threatened to rape her mother if she did not confess to being a Gaddafi loyalist.
Following her release she submitted complaints through several official channels. One night in March this year her flat was shot at and in June she received a phone call from the person who arrested her, as well as other anonymous threatening phone calls, warning her to withdraw her complaints.