Human Rights Watch urges Libya to provide medical care for civilians fleeing Sirte

Al-Jawiyyah prison in Misrata, northwest Libya.
© 2014 Christopher Occhicone

Libyan authorities should ensure the safety of and urgently provide medical care for more than 120 women and children being held in a Misrata prison after recently fleeing fighting in Sirte, Human Rights Watch said Saturday.

The authorities should work with the United Nations and humanitarian agencies to find safe destinations for those detained and treat them for injuries, illness, and malnourishment, HRW added.

An administrator at al-Jawiyyah prison told Human Rights Watch by telephone that most of the group detained there are women and children believed to be related to Islamic State, also known as ISIS, fighters who had been in Sirte before Libyan forces retook the area in December 2016.

Some of the women were allegedly abducted by ISIS fighters, a second Libyan official said by phone, and news stories reported that ISIS fighters had sexually abused them. The prison administrator said that the prison does not have adequate medical care. Public hospitals in Misrata have refused to admit members of the group because of fears of stoking anger among the local population after about 700 fighters from Misrata were killed in the fighting.

“Libyan authorities should do everything possible to ensure that the women and children who fled Sirte do not suffer from any association they may have with ISIS fighters,” said Bill Van Esveld, senior children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities should urgently work with the UN and aid groups to get these civilians to a safe place where they can receive necessary medical care and other assistance.”

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