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

2: Foster peace by protecting the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association

What is the problem?

Since 2015, official and de facto executive authorities in Libya have relied on repressive laws adopted under the Gaddafi regime and adopted additional decisions and decrees to curtail the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Current laws unnecessarily limit the ability of citizens to take part in spontaneous or organised demonstrations, which have been further deterred by widespread violence by militias and general insecurity.

Political groups and coalitions have also seen their capacity to voice political opinions overshadowed by insecurity and the presence of militias and armed groups using threats, intimidation, attacks and enforced disappearances to silence opposition. This has effectively impeded the possibility to conduct political competition and curtailed the right to establish political parties, a key aspect of the right to association which is fundamental to free and fair elections. A range of political parties were formed to participate in the 2012 elections for a General National Congress, but all candidates were required to run as independents in the 2014 HoR elections. Further, the legal framework regulating the formation and activity of associations in Libya, including Law 71 of1972 and Law 19 of 2003, continue to discriminate against individuals, and prevent their political participation, solely on the basis of perceived political ideology, such as those deemed contrary to the principles of the 1969 Al-Fateh Revolution or the 17 February Revolution.

What you must do about it

In order to strengthen democracy by enabling non-violent participation in public life, freedom of peaceful assembly and association should be free from interference and should be guaranteed as a precondition for any election. Candidates for the elections must be given a fair chance of reaching the voters and winning their support. This requires an electoral environment in which political parties and candidates are equally able to express their messages to the public by organising peaceful assemblies and other demonstrations of public support and by moving freely throughout the country to seek votes.

Under the Roadmap, you committed to “take the necessary measures to ensure respect for civil and political rights and ensure their regulation in a manner that ensures freedom of expression and political organization and action” (article 6.8). To guarantee this, you must:

  • Ensure that any restrictions on public gatherings are legitimate and strictly limited to protecting public order, and that peaceful assemblies are able to take place in a safe manner;
  • Guarantee the freedom to engage freely in political activity individually or through political parties and other organisations and refrain from obstructing the formation of political par-ties in the lead up to the elections;
  • Investigate and hold accountable those responsible for attacks aiming to infringe the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.