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Ottawa calls meeting with Libyan diplomats to discuss reports of torture

A 16-year old boy (declined to give his name or show his face out of fear of retribution) shows scars on his body from a rebel's rocket propelled grenade during the fighting in Dafniya on April 25th, 2011. He was under rebel control in a makeshift prison in Misrata.

Charla Jones for The Globe and Mail/charla jones The Globe and Mail

The Canadian government has called in Libya's diplomats in Ottawa to express worry over torture in that country's jails.

An aide to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada is "very concerned about these allegations" and a source said that message has already been delivered to diplomats in Ottawa representing Libya's interim government.

"We will be raising these concerns with the interim Libyan government through official channels in Ottawa and Tripoli," said Richard Roth, an aide to Mr. Baird. "Canada will continue to help Libyans build a fair and democratic society that respects human rights and the rule of law."

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Abubaker Karmos, The Libyan transitional government's envoy to Ottawa -- the acting ambassador -- could not be reached for comment.

The United Nations and international rights groups have reported widespread torture and rape in jails, now under the authority of the interim government formed by the rebels who ousted dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Canada played a substantial role in the NATO military mission that pinned back Col. Gadhafi's military, helping the rebels win, under a UN mandate to protect civilians.

On Friday the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on the transitional government to take control of as many as 60 makeshift prisons holding 8,000 detaines, which are controlled operated by a hodge-podge of rebel brigades. She expressed particular concerns for detainees from sub-Saharan Africa, who are assumed to be former Gadhafi fighters.

She told The Associated Press in an interview Friday that some detainees are subject to "torture, extrajudicial executions, rape of both men and women."

On Thursday, the aid group Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) suspended work in prisons in the Libyan city of Misrata because of widespread torture. It said that since August, it treated 115 people in Misrata, including cigarette burns, bone fractures, tissue bruns from electric shocks, and kidney failures from beatings.

Amnesty International said it has recorded widespread abuse in other cities that have led to the deaths of several inmates.

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About the Author
Chief political writer

Campbell Clark has been a political writer in The Globe and Mail’s Ottawa bureau since 2000. Before that he worked for The Montreal Gazette and the National Post. He writes about Canadian politics and foreign policy. More

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