Lawyers for Justice in Libya’s Newsletter
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Newsletter Special Edition:
Supporter update

July 2017

Open Letter from our Director

From all of us at LFJL, thank you so very much for caring and allowing us to continue our work to give a voice to the voiceless and fight for the rights of every Libyan over the past year!

Last summer, the donor community gave up on Libya and pulled its support for its nascent civil society, including LFJL. We, and others, came very close to having to end our activities, in turn jeopardising Libya’s transition to a country where justice, accountability and human rights are realisable and enjoyed by all. We reached out to our grassroots followers with an urgent call for action and support to ensure that spaces for civil society in Libya did not close, and the response was incredible.

We were completely overwhelmed by the reaction that our call to help safeguard and protect #EveryHuman’sRights received. Individuals from across the world responded to our request from locations as diverse as Egypt, Poland, Bahrain, the Netherlands, Kuwait, Spain, the UAE, the United States, Belgium, the UK and Libya. People from 15 to 80 years old gave between £5 to £20,000.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of our grassroots followers and support from key partners, we were able to reach our target and have been working diligently to strengthen our programmes and increase the amount of work we can undertake. Please read on to find out about our activities over the past year, our plans for the year ahead and for a profile of a donor on why he joined the fight for #EveryHuman’sRights. We hope to feature donor profiles on a regular basis.

We write now to ask for your support as we cannot implement our programmes without it as we continue to find that traditional funders are reluctant or unwilling to engage on Libya. Please do consider making a donation, no matter how small, so that we can continue to fight for justice and human rights in Libya. Your contributions mean that we can:

  • Grow the Coalition of Libyan Human Rights Organisations (the Coalition) to include new members from different regions of Libya working on diverse human rights concerns, and support them to access international human rights forums to advocate on their concerns in places they would not otherwise reach;
  • Bring additional human rights cases on issues not currently being heard and for which justice and rehabilitation is not currently available domestically;
  • Build a dedicated research department to share our expertise in Libyan and international law through detailed and accessible breakdowns of legal developments and their impact on human rights;
  • Expand our network of human rights monitors to document human rights violations and safely store the evidence to ensure it is not destroyed and can be included in future transitional justice processes;
  • Research and analyse Libya’s legal system to ensure that the law is a tool that empowers and protects all Libyans and is not a means for the curtailment of human rights; and
  • Train and support the next generation of activists to ensure that civil society is drawn from and active across all of Libya and represents is diversity.

We are humbled by your generous support, thank you.

As always, we welcome your feedback and comments so please get in touch and let us know if you would like more information on any of our work, or have any other questions. You can email us on or find us on Twitter @libyanjustice and Facebook.

This is a special edition of our newsletter to provide a detailed update on our fundraising and achievements. 

    Image of Tripoli taken by Nizar    

Supporter: Nizar Breden

My name is Nizar Bredan, I am a Libyan architect and photographer living in Belgium. I consider myself very fortunate to have been educated in a European country. This opportunity allowed me to obtain a master’s degree at a reputable university as well as nurture various interests, from photography and music to traveling and seeing the world without complications. As a Libyan man lucky enough to have courageous parents who fought for these privileges for me, I feel a strong sense of duty to contribute back to my country and community of origin. One of the ways that I contribute is by donating to organisations working for the wellbeing of the country, who work effectively and with heart in this period of political conflict, economic fragility and mental struggle.

As an optimistic person, I began looking for initiatives moving in the right direction despite the image of despair portrayed by the media. During my search, I stumbled upon Lawyers for Justice in Libya, by far the most appealing organisation seeming to work seriously for a better Libya. The website instantly conveys the quality of work and an understanding that professionalism in all areas leads to credibility.

UPRna logo

Nizar Breden

Before even going into the actual content, the charismatic communication of the website – the way they present themselves and their various programmes, etc. – grabbed my attention. Instead of focusing on superficial or short term issues, LFJL’s mission encompass substantial work needing to be carried out over the long term to build a strong foundation for society. The Legal Reform and Human Rights Education programs – to name a few – are pillars to a blossoming and serene society. Following LFJL’s news and browsing their publications, it was clear to me that actions were indeed taking place and that words weren’t just being written in the clouds.

Finally, independence is a critical value for me to be able to put faith in such an organisation; it is described in a crystal-clear manner and emphasised in their “about us” section. LFJL is the type of organisation, driven by people, that invests energy in excellence, ambition and reaching tangible positivity.


Recent Highlights

Transitional Justice Programme
Workshop: Human Rights Archiving in Libya

We launched our Transitional Justice Archive project with a three day workshop in Tunis. The project will create a secure online platform through which activists can store documentary evidence of human rights violations safely for use in future transitional justice processes as well as litigation, mapping and statistics for advocacy.

The workshop brought together human rights practitioners working on diverse issues from across the country and provided training on transitional justice, archiving and documentation. Facilitators for the workshop included representatives from SwissPeace, the Center for International Justice and Accountability, UNSMIL, the Instance de Vérité et Dignité and LFJL. Through the interactive strategy building sessions the group formed a shared vision and action plan for a highly collaborative and long term project.

Event: “Human Rights Archiving in Situations of Ongoing Conflict - Is it too Soon to Talk about Libya?”

The archiving project was launched officially with a discussion event: “Human rights archiving in situations of ongoing conflict - Is it too soon to talk about Libya?” Speakers discussed the possibilities offered by documentation and archiving, the pivotal role for civil society to play and the opportunities for the international community to support such initiatives.

Speakers from LFJL and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya offered context from their experiences trying to facilitate transitional justice processes in Libya. LFJL highlighted the weakness of existing transitional justice measures and concerns regarding victors’ justice in the Libyan context. Those from Swisspeace and Instance de Vérité et Dignité reflected on their lessons learnt in supporting transitional justice efforts in different country contexts and how they may apply to Libya.

Strategic Litigation

Case Update: African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
The Strategic Litigation Programme continued to work on holding perpetrators of torture and ill-treatment to account through international human rights mechanisms for redress. The team continued to develop three cases before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights concerning the torture and ill-treatment of members of an ethnic minority, as well as providing supporting rehabilitation. The team also worked on a letter to the Special Rapporteur on Torture requesting that he act on the standing invitation extended to Special Procedures by Libya in 2012 and conduct a country visit.

Event: “Human Rights Approach to Conflict Situations in the Arab Region”
LFJL participated in the international conference “Human Rights Approach to Conflict Situations in the Arab Region” to discuss “Education under attack: How to protect the right to education in armed conflict?”. The panelists included members of Protect Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC), the Hague Institute for Global Justice and Geneva Call.

The discussion considered the framework for protecting the right to education and recommendations for filling the legal gaps that currently exist. LFJL highlighted the ongoing impunity with which violations of the right to education are carried out in Libya, and discussed traditional and creative avenues by which civil society can protect the right to education during armed conflict. LFJL outlined its intention to use decisions from international mechanisms affirming the Libyan state’s failure to ensure that all children in Libya have access to education as a tool to push the state to meet its obligations. LFJL also referred to practical initiatives undertaken by civil society organisations in Libya to step in and provide education where the state lacks the authority on the ground to do so itself. This includes working laterally with local councils or providing classes online for students who cannot access school.

Monitoring: International Criminal Court and the Situation in Libya
LFJL continued to monitor the activity of International Criminal Court (the ICC) in relation to its continuing mandate in Libya. In November, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (the Prosecutor) reported to the United Nations Security Council on the situation in Libya and pledged to intensify investigations into past and ongoing international crimes in Libya. In April, she followed up on her pledge by publicly disclosing, for the first time, an arrest warrant for Al-Tuhmany Mohamed Khaled, which has been under seal since 2013. The Prosecutor later highlighted that her office is closely following ongoing crimes including summary executions in Ganfouda and human trafficking.

LFJL responded to these developments and welcomed the Prosecutor’s renewed commitment to ending the impunity enjoyed by those who continue to carry out human rights violations in Libya. LFJL called for additional support from the international community of the Prosecutor’s efforts, and urged the ICC to consider the opportunities presented by “positive complementarity”, i.e. its role in supporting and assisting states in which the ICC has a mandate to undertake national prosecutions of international crimes. Further, LFJL called for the Office of the Prosecutor to operate in a more communicative and transparent way, citing the deterrent effect of further arrest warrants being made public which, Director Elham Saudi noted would “... shatter the belief that those who commit violations are above the law, in turn contributing to the prevention of future acts of such cruelty and indignity.”


Human Rights Council Mission: Calling for an Independent Human Rights Monitoring Mechanism on Libya
The Advocacy team travelled to the Human Rights Council (HRC) during its 34th regular session to call for the HRC to establish a mandate for an Independent Expert on Libya to monitor and report on the human rights situation and on the progress made towards accountability. As well as advocating to state representatives directly, LFJL held a side event, “Libya: Reigning in the Warlords - The Role of the Human Rights Council”, to raise awareness of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country and to call for an Independent Expert.

Speakers from Human Rights Watch, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace and LFJL discussed the growing power of armed groups, serious restrictions on civil society, inability of national accountability mechanisms to prosecute serious human rights violations and the limited scope of current monitoring by international mechanisms. The panellists concluded that an Independent Expert on Libya is necessary to fill the gap in independent public reporting on ongoing abuses and violations and to provide recommendations for improving the human rights situation in the country.

Exhibition: “Libya: Human Rights Under Pressure”
LFJL and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung hosted a photography exhibition in Berlin aiming to give a voice and space to Libyans to tell their own stories within the discussion of the ongoing human rights crisis. The exhibition sought to highlight the work of photographers as witnesses and advocates of social change, despite immense personal risk, in order to shed light on everyday struggles that are often conspicuously absent from policy discussion.

The exhibition images depicted a wide range of emotive topics including the condition in camps for the displaced Tawergha community, the destruction of religious and historical sites, the assimilation of violence into the everyday lives of children, and the hard won gains of women speaking out during protests to guarantee their political participation. The challenges faced by the photographers in carrying out their work were also a central theme of the exhibition, many of the featured photographers having either been forced to leave the country or endure continuing hostility.

Public Service Announcement (PSA): UPRna
Libya’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) to discuss Libya’s human rights performance took place in May 2015 at the HRC. During the review, states made 202 recommendations to assist Libya to improve its human rights situation. Libya accepted 161 of these recommendations and, in doing so, undertook to implement them. However, to this day Libya has not fulfilled its obligations and human rights in the country remain under threat.

In this context, LFJL’s PSA called on the public to play a role in pushing the state to meet its obligations by documenting human rights violations and putting pressure on decision-makers to respect and protect human rights. Along with the PSA, LFJL urged Libyans to call on the state to publish a national human rights action plan and researched the public’s human rights priorities in an online survey.

Legal Reform

PSA: Destoori, LFJL’s Constitutional Programme
In May, LFJL released the first in a series of PSAs raising public awareness of, and engagement in, Libya’s constitution building process. The Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA) has been working on a new constitution for Libya since 2014 but the process stalled in 2016. The CDA has largely carried out its work behind closed doors, and because of the security situation and everyday pressures facing the Libyan public, the public has felt removed from the process and is no longer engaging with it in a substantive way. However, in April the CDA formed a committee tasked with reaching consensus on the fundamental issues over which it had been divided, and is currently considering its sixth draft.

Responding to this development, LFJL’s satirical PSA calls on the public to urge their representatives in the CDA to hold an open and accessible dialogue in order to finalise a constitution with clear, enforceable human rights protections guaranteed in the broadest, least restrictive terms. The PSA received over 18,000 views and prompted lively engagement online to discuss the way forward for the constitution building process.

Statement: CDA Consensus Committee Draft Constitution
In April, the CDA’s 12 member committee formed to reach consensus on controversial issues agreed a draft constitution which it then referred back to the CDA as a whole to consider in plenary. LFJL reviewed the draft in detail and was concerned by the failure to provide sufficient guarantees to ensure the protection of human rights in Libya. LFJL also highlighted measures in the draft that may weaken existing rights commitments.

LFJL responded to this development in a statement highlighting its key human rights concerns. In particular, LFJL considered the expansive limitations to fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression and the right to assembly, and provisions that undermine guarantees of equality and non-discrimination. LFJL reminded the CDA that the purpose of a constitution is to provide people with protections from the potential abuse and over-reach of state power. In contrast, the draft in its current form risks entrenching unequal treatment and substandard protections for human rights for generations to come.

Human Rights Education

Event: Q&A with Lord Dubs
LFJL Director Elham Saudi and Lord Alfred Dubs met in April to discuss "Should the UK welcome more child refugees?" The question and answer session was part of #CHEvents at Chatham House and follows the end, in March, of the UK's resettlement scheme for unaccompanied child refugees.

In the discussions, Lord Alfred Dubs emphasised that when it comes to helping refugees, "All European countries should take their share" and Elham Saudi drew attention to the need for international engagement in Libya as it is a source country. The two agreed on the importance of welcoming more child refugees to the UK.

Event: “Reporting on Torture: Challenges and Opportunities for the Media”
LFJL co-hosted an event at Matrix Chambers with REDRESS to launch the “Reporting on Torture” journalists’ handbook. Panellists at the event discussed “Reporting on Torture: Challenges and Opportunities for the Media” and included Guy Vassall-Adams QC and journalist Ian Cobain as well as representatives from LFJL and REDRESS. The highly experienced journalists and human rights experts highlighted the challenges and opportunities for the media in shedding light on instances of torture through accurate reporting to increase awareness of the prevalence, motivations and impact of torture, as well as the barriers to justice.

The “Reporting on Torture” journalist handbook was developed by REDRESS in partnership with four other human rights organisations working to eradicate torture in a range of countries: the Independent Medico-Legal Unit in Kenya; the National Coordinator for Human Rights in Peru; Advocacy Forum-Nepal and LFJL. The “Reporting on Torture” handbook explains states’ obligations to prevent, prohibit and respond to torture allegations. It also details the impact of torture on victims, and provides guidance to journalists on minimising the risks they may face when reporting on torture and on how safely and appropriately to interview and interact with torture victims.

Event: “Libya’s Migrant Hell” Q+A at Chatham House
Director Elham Saudi moderated a discussion at a Chatham House screening of the documentary, presented by Ross Kemp, on the situation of migrants in Libya. The documentary takes an unflinching view of the crisis and has received national attention in the UK, where it has done much to raise awareness of the ill-treatment and dangers faced by thousands of people as they attempt to pass through Libya.

During the discussion that followed the screening, Ross Kemp commented that “They're human beings; it is not about what country you're from. It's about human dignity and they deserve our help”. He also described the experience as the first from which he had walked away feeling hopeless (Kemp has made a number of films as part of a series called “Extreme World”, including films about child soldiers in Congo and sexual slavery in India). Elham Saudi drew attention to the complete impunity for the crimes against migrants taking place in Libya and how torture is increasingly normalised in the country. As well as shining a light on the reality of the situation, the documentary team hopes to provoke European states to take responsibility rather than continuing to try to contain migrants within Libya.

Looking Forward

Strategic Litigation - bringing an end to the ongoing impunity for human rights violations and promoting greater human rights accountability 

Over the next year, LFJL will continue to pursue legal redress for victims of human rights violations and their families in Libya and intends to expand the Strategic Litigation Programme to take on more cases relating to recognised crises for which there is currently no accountability: migrants, internally displaced persons and the missing.

As well as bringing its own strategic cases to international human rights mechanisms and supporting other civil society organisations to do the same, the Strategic Litigation team plans to spend the next year increasing its engagement with the ICC which has stepped up its activity in Libya. In particular, the Strategic Litigation team intends to facilitate collaboration between Libyan civil society and the investigating teams and to encourage public interaction with the ICC processes regarding its current arrest warrants. 
Please consider donating to support the following Strategic Litigation activities:
  • Victim participation at the ICC - in order to foster a stronger relationship between the ICC and victims in Libya, LFJL will raise awareness of the ICC’s ongoing activities in Libya, provide legal assistance to victims who wish to interact with the ICC and advocate at the ICC’s Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute for improved interaction between Libyan NGOs, victims and the ICC.
  • Human rights litigation in Libya - groups at risk of marginalisation have seen their rights curtailed significantly as successive governments show an increasing lack of concern for human rights in the climate of polarisation. The rights of children, women, the internally displaced and journalists are particularly at risk. By bringing strategic cases in these areas, LFJL wishes use litigation to establish precedents and clarify the applicability and scope of human rights law in Libya in order to prevent further injustices and ensure that human rights concerns are a priority consideration in decision making processes.
  • Migration intervention - to address the appalling treatment faced by migrants in Libya LFJL is keen to engage international criminal mechanisms to end the impunity with which those responsible for alleged human trafficking, torture and arbitrary detention of migrants currently enjoy. LFJL will use creative legal solutions, such as the criminal law of other countries, to bring the perpetrators who commit these human rights violations to justice.

Transitional Justice - seeking accountability and reconciliation for lasting peace

LFJL’s Transitional Justice Programme seeks to carry out activities that ensure that victims of human rights abuses realise their right to know the truth, see those responsible held to account, and receive adequate reparations. LFJL is implementing an archiving project which will work with actors in Libya to document human rights violations and store them securely so that they may be used as evidence in future truth and reconciliation efforts. 

The programme also seeks to create space for discussions and debates not currently being had regarding transitional justice issues such as those related to the right to reconciliation of communities perceived as being ‘against’ the uprising who are currently severely marginalised. Over the next year, the Transitional Justice Programme intends to expand the membership of its monitoring network to cover activists working on diverse human rights concerns located across the country. It also plans to conduct outreach activities to engage students and young people in creative discussions on transitional justice through activities such as debating and podcasting at universities

Your donation will support the following Transitional Justice Activities:
  • Promoting leaders of transitional justice in Libya - to create spaces for transitional justice discussions that are not currently being held, LFJL will engage university students from across the country and provide training for them on transitional justice and human rights issues and on how to coordinate and create tools for public discussion. Following the training, the students will return to their universities and set up student radio programmes that will discuss the transitional justice themes affecting them and their communities. The radio shows will be syndicated beyond the university to local, regional and national radio stations to ensure a wide reach.
  • Protecting Libya’s history - increasing extremism has seen Libya’s rich cultural heritage come under threat of destruction, with Sufi shrines and graves demolished and art and artefacts stolen. To protect other irreplaceable heritage from the same fate, LFJL is keen to partner with historical or arts organisation to support them to secure documents and items physically and digitally and to document cultural destruction as part of its archive initiative. LFJL will also seek to raise awareness of the importance and value of cultural heritage at the public level.
  • Towards national reconciliation - to address the lack of grassroots participation in reconciliation initiatives, LFJL will map the transitional justice and human rights concerns of key communities vulnerable to having their interests overlooked, such as the internally displaced and persons with disabilities and work with them to advocate and raise awareness of the findings. Together LFJL and the participating stakeholders will hold local level discussion events using techniques devised to ensure that the debate is impartial, non condescending and accessible.

Advocacy - reporting on the human rights situation in Libya and advocating change domestically, regionally and internationally

The Advocacy Programme carries out advocacy before national, regional and international mechanisms to ensure that decisions affecting Libya are made on the basis of information from the ground. Alongside its own international advocacy activities, the programme will continue to empower and collaborate with national NGOs through the Coalition so that they may also engage in such forums and pursue joint advocacy targets.

Over the next year, the Advocacy team plans to expand the international human rights mechanisms with which it engages to include the UN Security Council and the Arab League, and to grow membership of the Coalition to cover further human rights concerns and to engage with civil society based in additional geographical locations.
Your donation could support the following Advocacy activities:
  • Towards effective implementation of Resolution 1325 - to address the continued domination of men in political dialogue and transitional processes, LFJL will bring together a network of female-focused or female-led civil society organisations and activists from across Libya and provide training and support to increase their own participation in national, regional and international advocacy and to advocate collectively for the meaningful implementation of Resolution 1325. Together the network will undertake joint advocacy missions, produce written communications and conduct awareness raising activities supported by LFJL.
  • Youth in conflict - LFJL will address issues affecting youth during conflict, such as access to education, training and employment opportunities, by recruiting a diverse group of 20 youth ambassadors from across Libya to undertake focus groups and develop a youth human rights charter. The youth ambassadors will present their charter internationally to UN mechanisms by holding creative events and domestically by leading a series of public debates at universities across the country.
Legal Reform - enhancing the Libyan state’s protection of, and response to, human rights issues

The Legal Reform Programme supports in-depth research and analysis of Libya’s legal system in order to promote its compliance with international human rights standards. This programme has succeeded in effecting change in legislation dealing with torture and transitional justice, as well as the draft constitution.

With a constitutional referendum expected in the next year, LFJL will conduct public awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of national participation in this process as well as the key human rights issues and concerns the draft raises. This is vital as the constitution will be a cornerstone of national human rights protections in Libya for generations to come and a flawed document will have a lasting negative impact.
We are seeking support for Legal Reform projects on the following themes:
  • Destoori grassroots awareness campaign - in order to re-engage ordinary Libyans in the constitution building process, LFJL will partner with members of key demographics with specific constitutional concerns and produce accessible discussion materials that examine constitutional issues on which there is currently no consensus. The materials will take the form of podcasts, short films and online media.
  • Safeguarding and empowering the judiciary - Libya’s judiciary has the potential to play a significant role in protecting and upholding human rights and democratic principles. This project aims to secure constitutional design of the judicial branch that meets international standards by linking key stakeholders and international experts to review international best practice and draft recommendations for advocacy to the CDA.
Human Rights Education - fostering a culture of human rights in Libya among the grassroots and specialists

The programme addresses the lack of public awareness of human rights principles and the value they offer. It also attempts to tackle key issues that are linked to the widespread culture of accepting human rights violations including torture and ill-treatment. Activities include the production of informative PSAs, media materials, and podcasts on human rights issues.

The programme is also seeking to engage Libya’s youth in discussions concerning the importance of human rights, notably through launching a summer school to develop the skillsets of the next generation of human rights activists and by developing a national human rights curriculum to be rolled out across all of Libya’s schools.

The third limb of the programme is its capacity building training. The programme works with diverse groups of stakeholders, including activists, lawyers, civil servants, judges and journalists, to develop their capacity to undertake their own human rights related work in their own fields. Much of the capacity building takes the form of bespoke, long term, holistic partnerships such as training lawyers to document human rights violations to internationally recognised standards and then supporting them with their own cases and submissions.
Please consider supporting us to implement the following Human Rights Education projects:
  • The Safer Prisons Programme - to combat the human rights violations that are prevalent in Libya’s prisons, LFJL will train law enforcement agents on Libya’s human rights obligations, develop a code of conduct and complaints procedure with prison guards and detainees for use within prisons and then monitor implementation of the code of conduct.
  • Community Based Youth Paralegals - in order to provide vocational training opportunities to young people in Libya and to deter them from extremism, LFJL will develop a programme to train and mentor a group of young people from across Libya to become paralegals and set up legal clinics in their local communities.
  • The Future Activists Programme - LFJL will hold a two week summer camp for young people with a keen interest in human rights and activism. The summer camp participants will learn about human rights law and practical skills for activism such as online advocacy, podcasting and debating alongside sports and creative activities. After graduation, LFJL will support these new generation of activists to undertake their own human rights work back in their own communities
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