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Human Rights Watch urges protection for Libya civilians

After evacuating the city of Sirte, Libyan authorities detained a number of civilians suspected of ISIS links

Published: Updated:

Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged the Libyan government to protect civilians who were detained after fleeing former ISIS group stronghold Sirte.

“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” on suspicion of extremist links, it said.

Forces allied with Libya’s unity government said on December 5 that they had ousted ISIS from the coastal city, 450 kilometres east of Tripoli, after seven months of fighting.

The extremists had seized Sirte, the hometown of slain dictator Muammar Qaddafi, in June 2015 amid the chaos following Qaddafi’s downfall in 2011.

After evacuating the city, Libyan authorities detained a number of civilians suspected of ISIS links, fears heightened by cases where women blew themselves up after leaving the city.

HRW said authorities have “an obligation to ensure the well-being and security of the women and children” and should not detain them on the basis of suspected relationships to IS fighters.

It cited a prison official who said none of the women had identification documents and another who said some of the women appeared to have been abducted by ISIS.

HRW urged the government to work with the United Nations and aid agencies to “find safe destinations for those detained and treat them for injuries, illness, and malnourishment”.