The detention center of Zawiya, 30 km from Tripoli | Credit:  ANSA/Zuhair Abusrewil
The detention center of Zawiya, 30 km from Tripoli | Credit: ANSA/Zuhair Abusrewil

A court in Milan has sentenced a Somali national to life in prison on murder and torture charges, becoming the first Italian tribunal to recognize torture perpetrated in detention camps in Libya.

An Italian court has for the first time acknowledged the abuse and torture endured by migrants in Libya by sentencing a defendant to life in prison based on testimony provided by asylum seekers, said the Association of juridical studies on immigration in Italy ASGI. 

The court in Milan on Tuesday sentenced Somali national Osman Matammud, 22, to life in prison on multiple counts of murder, rape and abduction for ransom. The Court of Assizes, ASGI said, ''clearly stated how brutal were the conditions endured by dozens of people in Libya, judging as reliable and proven the witness reports provided by asylum seekers who were able to provide a description of the shocking violence of the torture they suffered''. The association said the sentence was ''historic'' and should ''change the direction of the Italian government''. 

Murder and torture at Bani Whalid camp in Libya 

Matammud was sentenced to life in prison, including the first three years in daytime isolation, on multiple counts of murder, torture and rape against dozens of migrants held at the camp. The young man was arrested in Milan a year ago after being recognized in a migrant reception center by fellow Somalis who had spent time with him at the camp near Tripoli.

According to ASGI, which includes jurists and attorneys and was a plaintiff in the trial, the Milan sentence acknowledged the ''historical truth'' as ''judicial truth'', ''recognizing that torture and inhuman treatment occurred in detention camps in Libyan territory''. 

Call for change in Italy and EU 

According to the association, the ruling shows ''the consequences of the political choices made by Italy and the European Union, aimed at sending migrants back to Libya through agreements with local authorities''. Sending migrants ''to a place in which the safety of survivors or their life is threatened, as confirmed by the sentence of the Court of Assizes in Milan, cannot be tolerated''. 

ASGI urged the Italian government and Parliament to acknowledge ''the need to change migration policies implemented over the past few years, making entry to find work or seek protection easier, rescuing migrants at sea and ending agreements for readmission with countries and entities that don't guarantee the full respect of life and the dignity of people''. 

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