JOHANNESBURG – Five Libyans and a Palestinian have been arrested for the torture of eight Sudanese nationals who are currently being treated in a Libyan hospital.
The Libyan Herald reported on Wednesday that authorities arrested the group in an area 130 km south of former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, accusing them of being involved in recent videos that went viral showing the torture of the Sudanese migrants.
Libya’s ambassador to Sudan was summoned to the foreign ministry in Khartoum over the issue.
The release of the Sudanese nationals followed a shootout between the smugglers and Libyan security forces after the human traffickers refused to surrender. One smuggler was injured in the gunfight.
The Rada Special Deterrence Force, based in the capital Tripoli, hunted down the torturers after viewing the widely condemned torture footage which showed the men being beaten and burned as their captors demanded money.
Most of the victims were from Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region and had arrived in Libya seeking work before attempting the perilous sea journey to Europe in a desperate attempt for a better life.
While news that migrants in Libya are subjected to often barbaric treatment is not new, the country has been the focus of international attention after footage emerged of African refugees being paraded and sold in Tripoli for several hundred dollars.
Human rights groups have regularly reported on the abuse of migrants in Libyan detention centres, many of which are run by militias which control large swathes of the country.
Libya has been in a state of upheaval following the overthrow of Gaddafi, and his subsequent death, during the 2011 Arab Spring.
There is no central functioning government, but rival governments and parliaments operating from different parts of the country are supported by different militias and tribes.