French Medical Aid Workers Blow Whistle on Libya Torture

French medical aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières has stopped work in Libya’s Misrata detention centers because they say detainees are being routinely tortured and denied medical care.

Medical aid agency Médecins Sans Frontières has stopped work in Libya’s Misrata detention centers because, they say, detainees are being routinely tortured and denied medical care.


According to the organization, medical teams working in Misrata’s detention centers have increasingly encountered patients suffering from injuries caused by torture during interrogation sessions. The group reports that after treating 115 people with torture-related wounds and reporting the cases to authorities, several of the patients have been returned to the same centers and have been tortured again.


“Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable. Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions,” said MSF General Director Christopher Stokes.


MSF says that not only is the organization appalled at the torture, they feel that Libyan officials are taking advantage of their help and exploiting and obstructing their medical work.


The group says that despite calls to the National Army Security Service asking that certain badly hurt patients be transferred to hospitals for specialized and urgent care, their requests went unanswered in all but one case. The others, they say, were subjected to renewed interrogations and torture outside the detention centers.


“No concrete action has been taken,” said Stokes, speaking of MSF’s calls to end the torture. “Instead, our team received four new torture cases. We have therefore come to the decision to suspend our medical activities in the detention centres.”


Although work in the detention centers will cease, MSF will remain in Misrata to continue its mental health support activities in schools and health facilities.


MSF’s medical teams have worked in Misrata since April 2011 treating war wounded, performing surgeries and providing orthopedic follow-up care to people who had suffered bone fractures. Their teams have seen 2,600 patients, including 311 for violent trauma.


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(Photo: Ismail Zetouni/Reuters)

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