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7 things to do in 7 months:
A human rights roadmap to elections

7: Create a safe space at polling stations and ensure the security of voters

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.