Abduction in Libya violates human rights, undermines rule of law

US Special Forces seize al Qa’ida suspect from street in Tripoli

The USA has again used its flawed “global war” theory to violate fundamental human rights principles, this time to carry out the abduction of Libyan national Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, also known as Abu Anas al-Libi, from Libya on 5 October 2013. The US government should immediately confirm his whereabouts and provide him access to legal counsel, medical care and family members.

If Abu Anas al-Libi is taken to the USA, where he was indicted in 1998 and 2000 for his alleged involvement with al-Qa’ida, including in the attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the US government should not pursue the death penalty against him.

US Special Forces seized Abu Anas al-Libi on a street in Tripoli, Libya, on 5 October. Members of his family told Amnesty International that he was seized at about 6:30am as he was parking his car outside his home in Tripoli having returned from Fajr prayer at a nearby mosque. He was seized by approximately seven men, who had arrived at his home in two armoured vehicles, armed with handguns. A third armoured car was parked in the distance. According to the family members who witnessed the abduction, some of the men were masked and spoke the Libyan dialect. To date, the family has not been officially notified about Abu Anas al-Libi’s detention and whereabouts either by the Libyan or US authorities. The family told Amnesty International that they found out that the abduction was carried out by US Special Forces from a news report.

In a news release on 6 October, the Pentagon asserted that the operation was conducted “under military authorities” in an operation “approved by President Obama”, and that Abu Anas al-Libi was now “lawfully detained under the law of war in a secure location outside of Libya.” It has been reported that he is being held and interrogated aboard a ship, the USS San Antonio, in the Mediterranean.

In a statement issued on 6 October Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel confirmed that Abu Anas al-Libi is “now in US custody” and recalled that he “was designated as a global terrorist by Executive Order, was a subject of the US Rewards for Justice Program, and is on the UN Al Qaeda sanctions list. He was also indicted for his alleged role in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa, and other plots to conduct attacks against US interests.” Secretary Hagel emphasised that the operation in Libya, and one conducted in Somalia around the same time, demonstrated the “global reach” of the US military, and that any such actions were undertaken “consistent with our laws and our values”. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed that “members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations literally can run, but they can’t hide. We will continue to try to bring people to justice in an appropriate way”.

None of the official US statements made any mention of international human rights law and principles.