Ensure the respect of the ‘Agreement for a Complete and Permanent Ceasefire in Libya’ and adopt a plan to mitigate the risk of escalating violence, identifying concrete and practical measures aiming to prevent further violations in the lead up to the elections;
The High Council of State (HCS) expressed concerns about violations in the registration and distribution of voter cards, claiming that the Head of HNEC, Alsayeh is responsible for such violations. The HCS also denounced the attack on the former member of the General National Congress, Mahmoud Abdelaziz Al-Werfalli who revealed illegal activities conducted in relation to the registration and distribution of voter cards. Werfalli was attacked on 27 November by a gunman wearing a police uniform from the Ministry of Interior at Abu Salim voter card registration centre in Tripoli after trying to highlight fraud with the registration cards.
To secure fair elections, the GNU must stop the use of violent attacks. Targeting high-level individuals in the face of the upcoming election could lead to a risk of escalating violence and undermine the election process.
Ensure that independent monitors have access to polling places and prevent attacks from militias and armed groups;
On 28 November, HNEC announced that it had observed illegal monitoring activities where individuals were monitoring the election process without legal or official capacity. This undermines the process of fair and independent monitoring. As such, HNEC published a clarification note on the practice of monitoring duties on the electoral process and election centres.
Ensure that those responsible for attacks and those attempting to obstruct the democratic electoral process, access to polls and freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association are held accountable;
Khaled Mishri, the head of the High State Council (HSC), plans to challenge the holding of elections in the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court for not being in accordance with the national law. Critics fear that behind these ‘legal concerns’ there might be an attempt to obstruct the democratic electoral process. According to them, changing the law is a long-term process and requires consensus with Tebu, Tuareg and Amazigh minorities in country. This ultimately will lead to imposing barriers which will obstruct the elections.
Refrain from impeding the work of the judiciary and ensure its places of work are safe so that it can do its work.
On 28 November, the Sabha Court of Appeal postponed the hearing for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s appeal against HNEC’s decision to exclude him from the presidential elections. The decision was made due to the absence of a judge required to proceed with the hearing. This was as a result of the violent obstruction of the work of the Sabha Court of Appeals by an armed group allegedly affiliated to the Libyan Arab Armed Forces. The reports also indicate that judges were physically prevented from conducting their legally mandated duties, directly impeding the electoral process.
Previously, on 16 November, the Chief of Sabha Security Directorate, Mohammed Besher, said that pro-Haftar Operation Dignity Room issued an arrest warrant against him after appearing with Gaddafi on the day he submitted his elections candidacy in Sabha. Besher denied the accusations that he is a private security to Gaddafi, saying that his job only entails security of the polling stations in Sabha.
What is the problem?
Post-2011 elections in Libya have not come without challenges, including security concerns. For example, the 2014 elections were marked by violence and a particularly low voter turnout of 18%, compromising the legitimacy of the election results. Security concerns forced 17 polling stations in central Derna to remain closed, while 10 centres in Kufra remained closed due to blockades preventing the delivery of election materials. Violence in Benghazi, which resulted in seven deaths and over 50 injured, caused one polling centre to be closed prematurely. The same day, Salwa Bugaigis, a prominent human rights lawyer and deputy chair of the National Dialogue Preparatory Committee, was killed in her home in Benghazi. Political assassinations have become common incidents. For example, in January 2018, Salah al-Qatrani, an education official, was killed shortly after he announced his candidacy for parliamentary elections.
Such security concerns often result in a low voter turnout, as evidenced by the 2014 elections, which then creates a gap between those elected and the population that does not feel represented by the outcome of the elections. A similar pattern in the upcoming elections would affect all recent efforts to achieve sustainable peace and stability. Preventing the escalation of violence and human rights violations and guaranteeing the safety of voters and candidates is key to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections.
What you must do about it
Free and fair elections require an environment free of coercion, discrimination and intimidation of voters, candidates and political parties. You have a distinct role in building a conducive political and security environment for elections. As such, you must:
- Ensure the respect of the ‘Agreement for a Complete and Permanent Ceasefire in Libya’ and adopt a plan to mitigate the risk of escalating violence, identifying concrete and practical measures aiming to prevent further violations in the lead up to the elections;
- Ensure that independent monitors have access to polling places and prevent attacks from militias and armed groups;
- Ensure that those responsible for attacks and those attempting to obstruct the democratic electoral process, access to polls and freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association are held accountable;
- Refrain from impeding the work of the judiciary and ensure its places of work are safe so that it can do its work.