Hadba Prison Report

Hadba Prison Report

March 27, 2017
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IHH is a non-governmental humanitarian relief organization founded in 1995. The organization’s main focus is on conducting humanitarian relief operations across the globe to reach out to people in need and it has no political affiliation or leaning. It runs humanitarian aid operations in 140 countries from Japan, the USA, and Haiti to Crimea and South Africa. It has undertaken the care of 85 thousand orphans and provided free cataract treatment for 90 thousand people from various parts of Africa. Besides humanitarian aid operations, it also runs major infrastructure projects, such as the building of schools, orphanages, health centers, education and cultural centers, mosques and digging water wells. All people benefit equally from the organization’s donations and no discrimination is made. IHH is a consultative member of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a member of the International Humanitarian Forum, The Union of NGOs of The Islamic World (IDSB) and the Turkish Volunteer Organizations Foundation. 

While humanitarian aid is a major aspect of the organization’s overall strategy, engaging in conflict resolution initiatives to restore people’s rights and freedoms also rank high among its priorities. Drawing attention to the root sources of whatever crisis a nation is plagued by, it prepares diplomatic reports in a bid to end the crisis. The aim of these diplomatic initiatives is to restore economic and social stability to crisis-stricken countries and make them economically resilient and self-sufficient again to ensure a prosperous and independent existence for their citizens.

Visiting the Hadba prison is a good example of the fact that the organization is constantly seeking ways to make people’s lives better.

It has an impeccable track record of organizing hostage exchanges, having negotiated the release of 2350 civilians so far, while it is still actively engaged in diplomatic efforts to aid in the safe evacuation of civilians from Aleppo. It negotiated the release of two women from the Czech Republic abducted in Pakistan, and it plays an active role in peace efforts to restore order and stability in the Philippines as a member of the peace committee. Likewise, the organization has also paid a visit to illegal African immigrants held up in prisons in Tripoli and Misrata in Libya. During the visit, the organization members had the chance to examine the prison conditions and the treatment of the inmates and escalated their concerns to the relevant authorities. Further, the organization volunteered to send some vital supplies found lacking in the prison to ameliorate the prison experience for the inmates.

Finally, in February 2017, a visit was made to the Hadba prison pursuant to the written consent of the Libyan prosecutor’s office 6800-13-2. The purpose of the visit was to inspect the conditions in which the inmates were living, especially high-ranking officials from the Gaddafi era, and to see to what extent their fundamental human rights were being respected. Reporting any findings during the visits to the relevant authorities to ensure corrective action is taken is always part of the work.

The prison conditions were assessed against the backdrop of Libya’s general condition and the state of the previous settlements the African immigrants were housed in. During the visit, the inmates were not asked loaded questions about their political leanings or the court proceedings; they spoke freely without any prodding or coercion while we took notes on what they had to say about the prison conditions. 

All inspections were carried out in strict compliance with the laws of Libya.

General Condition of the Hadba Prison

The prison housed a total of 150 inmates and consisted of two sections, one section housing serious offenders and the other petty criminals. There are two-inmate cells in the serious offenders’ section with the bathroom and the washbasin inside the cell. There is also an infirmary room in the prison that provides round the clock medical service for medical emergencies. There is also a library and a prayer room. When we entered the prison, we found the prison floors to be in good and clean condition and the food arrived in packaging. There were packed couscous and drinks (fruit juice and coke) on the lunch menu. 

Each prison cell was visited indiscriminately, which meant we had the chance to talk to some of the inmates. We also held separate interviews with officials from the Gaddafi era in the prison manager’s room. 

Sadık Salim Bustil, one of the inmates that we interviewed, said he had no complaints, apart from the lack of dialysis drugs while 

İsmail Ebuacila, another inmate, said he was not particularly pleased with lengthy court proceedings, saying that it was now his sixth year in the prison. Suffering from serious ailments such as diabetes, kidney disease, and hypertension, he needs medications to keep him going, for which he currently relies on his family to get. He had no complaints though with regards to the way he was being treated by prison officials.

Umran Hammadi, the last inmate we interviewed, made no complaints about the prison or the kind of treatment he received, not failing to mention, though, like the other inmates, his frustration with lengthy court proceedings that never seem to end. He was incarcerated for his role as a ditch-digger in the Abu Selim massacre and he wants the courts to decide, once and for all, what his punishment is.

Former Prime Minister of Libya Baghdadi Mahmudi

Mahmudi, whom we interviewed twice, both in his private cell and the Prison Manager’s office, started off by asking how things were going in Turkey before mentioning his acquaintance with Mr. Erdogan and how they had both fought really hard for a visa-free travel agreement between both countries. He also spoke highly of the progress Turkey was making in recent years.

This is what he had to say about staying in a two-inmate cell: ‘We are actually being treated much better than we deserve and I’m not just saying this because I’m speaking in their presence. I have not been tortured or received bad treatment.  The initial interrogation stage was a bit strenuous but I received no bad treatment whatsoever.’

When we asked him why he was walking around with a cane he replied:’ ‘I was already suffering from a hernia long before all this started.  I was walking with the aid of a cane before my prison days. That is why I still keep it with me, not because I’ve been tortured. The doctors come and check on me now and then.’

When asked about whether he was allowed to use the prison telephone, he said: ‘I talk to them on the phone; I even get the chance to call my own tribesmen’, adding that he went out almost every day to get fresh air for at least 2 hours and that the prison guards were especially accommodating, given his old age.

Saidi Gaddafi, Son of Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s Former Leader 

Saidi Gaddafi was tortured during his first days in prison, as evidenced by leaked internet footage. He stayed in a two-inmate cell and picked his own cellmate. The prison officials say the torture was an isolated incident and those responsible for it have already been punished. Saidi says he is currently being treated rather well and that he has had no unpleasant experiences apart from the initial torture. Gaddafi says all his needs are attended to, adding: ‘I started having some liver problems 2 months ago accompanied by vomiting and high fever. Two doctors came and did some tests and discovered a cyst, which was then sent to the lab for analysis. The results said there was no immediate danger to my health but that I may need surgery.’

Gaddafi says he is currently allowed one phone call every month to talk to his parents and siblings, adding that he may even get two calls depending on the situation. He is currently not allowed to make any phone calls to his brothers Seyfulislam and Haniba, but still gets to speak with his relatives freely, adding that, despite there being no legal obstacles for him to have visitors, he has not yet had the chance to talk face to face with his wife and kids who had to leave the country fearing reprisal attacks.  Allowed into the prison courtyard for an hour every 4 days, he says he is sometimes allowed extra time in the courtyard if he feels too depressed. 

Abdullah Senusi, Former Intelligence Chief for Gaddafi 

Abdullah Senusi did not want to share with us his prison experiences, and refused to answer questions regarding the prison conditions or have his photo taken with us, angry at Turkey over its policies. He refrained from making any comments on the prison conditions or giving any information on his health despite our insistence that we wish to have a word with him. However, we thought it proper to cite in our report what he had to say about Turkey as his words perfectly capture the psychology of a previous high-ranking state official, brought down by war:

‘Turkey has literally deserted us in our hour of need, pushing us to the precipice with the others. You have been beguiled by the promise of EU membership in return for your contributions to our doom. We were brothers once. Turkish companies doing business in Libya always received preferential treatment in public tenders. We even trusted you enough to consign the Western hostages we held to your care, only to be stabbed in the back by you. You have destroyed 500 hundred years of brotherhood and compromised your neutral position. I am willing to accept no political or financial help from you, let alone give you any information on my health. Your policies during the events of Libya could have been very different.’

General Overview

One of the issues that came up most frequently during the interviews was the inmates’ request for swifter court proceedings. The Libyan authorities need to take some serious steps to ensure inmates receive quick and fair trials. 

As for the problems inmates face with regards to access to medication, it seems this is a problem felt across the entire country, and not just in prisons. However, it must be ensured that inmates have proper access to medication, their well-being being the responsibility of the Libyan government.

During the visit, we encountered no signs of physical abuse or mistreatment of the inmates, which, as yet, does not detract from the necessity to provide psychological support to inmates, some of whom are under huge emotional and psychological duress. 

Provisions should be made to provide the inmates with vocational courses, and create for them the right sort of environment in which to spend their leisure time more sensibly and develop themselves personally.

Further, serious consideration must be given to allowing inmates to spend more time in the open air. When asked, prison officials told us that additional funds were needed from the Ministry to boost the security of the prison courtyard and they were still working on it. In this respect, the Ministry of Justice must take immediate measures to ensure that the inmates get more fresh air and sunshine. 

Provisions must be made to provide the inmates with sports facilities where they can exercise and increase their physical fitness. 

Another issue mentioned by the inmates during the interviews was the lack of adequate access to newspapers and magazines. The prison management can make provisions to provide inmates with more issues of newspapers and magazines which are provided once or twice a month currently. 

Finally, the prison officials informed us that they would be happy to cooperate if there was any initiative to bring medical supplies and doctors over from Turkey to meet the medical requirements of the inmates.

Click for Arabic and Turkish texts.