7 May 2012
Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) strongly condemns laws 37 and 38 adopted by the Libyan National Transitional Council (the NTC) on 2 May as laws which breach fundamental human rights and freedoms and which represent a significant step backwards on Libya’s path to establishing a country built on human rights, the rule of law and democracy.
These laws constitute breaches not only of Libya’s international commitments, including those as a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, but also to the Constitutional Declaration of 3 August 2011 through which the NTC derives its legitimacy. Further, through the unilateral enactment of such laws, in the absence of involvement or consultation with key stakeholders including civil society organisations representing various interests of the Libyan public, the NTC is seriously undermining its own legitimacy.
Law 37 of 2012 on the criminalisation of the glorification of the dictator represents a serious breach of the freedom of expression. The law, which defines the current state in Libya as that of war, carries a prison sentence for those who spread news, propaganda or rumours, including “praising or glorifying Gaddafi, his regime, his ideas or his sons”, with the aim of “terrorising people” or “weakening public morale” during times of war. The law provides for a life sentence where such acts “harm the state”. The law also criminalises and provides a prison sentence for those who publish any news, propaganda or rumours which “harm the 17 February revolution”.
This law is consistent with other steps taken by the NTC to restrict freedom of expression, including law 15 of 2012 which prevents an media discussion of religious opinions (fatwas) issued by the national council of Islamic jurisprudence (Dar Al-Iftaa).
“These laws are, unfortunately, ones which are familiar to all Libyans after living under Gaddafi’s rule for 42 years. In Libya, we paid a heavy price over the last year, and the 42 preceding years, to ensure an end to prisoners of conscience only for the NTC to ensure a continuation of a system for repressing voices that dissent,” said Elham Saudi, director of LFJL. "It is particularly worrying that the NTC has chosen to codify into law that Libya is in ‘a state of war’. We call on the NTC to explain the reasons for this, given that its most apparent effect is to spread fear and anxiety amongst Libyans and to afford justification for those who wish to wield power with an iron fist and who wish to undermine human rights," she added.
Law 38 of 2012 on certain matters relating to transitional justice includes a complete amnesty for any “acts made necessary by the 17 February revolution” for its “success or protection”, whether such acts are of a military, security or civil nature. This law represents a serious impediment to the establishment of the rule of law in Libya. As with law 37, this law has terrifyingly familiar echoes of the Gaddafi era. The vague terms used in this law could lead to abuses in its implementation, including arbitrary detention. The NTC is enshrining the culture of impunity. Impunity for violations of human rights and war crimes resulting from a sense of revolutionary legitimacy is dangerous and perpetuates the culture that existed under the Gaddaﬁ regime, where all was justified in the name of the 1969 Revolution.
“Libya is at a crucial turning point. For Libya to move forward, and for us Libyans to be able to transition to a state that truly promotes responsible citizenship and protects our rights and freedoms, accountability must be enshrined over impunity. All responsible for abuses must be held accountable for their actions – we must break away from the Gaddafi inheritance of impunity and from viewing all actions through the prism of the 17 February Revolution. Our interim government, and the one which is due to be elected in June, must fulfil their duty to protect and promote all Libyans’ rights and not contextualise such protections based on political affiliations or any other discriminatory bases,” said Saudi.