Guarantee the participation of minority groups by making information available in all indigenous languages, including Tamazight, Tuareg and Tebu, in order to reach all communities;
Ensure that information, for example on how to vote, is available in formats that are accessible to all, including persons with disabilities such as those with visual impairments and people with learning difficulties;
Ensure that voter registration is inclusive, accessible, and that the largest number of eligible Libyans inside and outside the country can register. Special adjustments should be made for displaced persons who are not in their usual place of residence and may not have access to the civil registry;
On 7 November, the head of Libya’s High National Elections Commission (HNEC), Emad Alsayeh, announced the opening of polling stations. HNEC set a goal to distribute more than 2.8 million voter cards through 1,906 polling centres spread all over the country. The voters were able to get a voter card only if they could present an identification document to prevent potential frauds in the elections. HNEC decided to extend the daily working hours of voter card distribution centres to allow people to have easier access to voting cards. On 27 November, HNEC also extended the deadline for registered voters to collect their voting cards until Wednesday 1 December due to the high interest of Libyan citizens to participate in the upcoming elections.
On 20 November, the Benghazi IDPs Organization called on the president and members of the Supreme Judicial Council to develop specific laws that guarantee their rights to challenge the electoral process in their temporary residence in the western region. The organisation explained that the IDPs have registered in the defined locations in preparation for their participation in the electoral process. No information has been distributed so far on whether the Supreme Judicial Council has taken actions to answer the IDPs needs.
Facilitate the return of displaced persons in a secure, safe and dignified manner, allowing them to register and vote in their hometown;
Ensure that election rules do not discriminate or arbitrarily exclude potential voters or candidates;
On 23 November, HNEC announced that a total of 98 candidates have submitted their candidacy for the upcoming presidential elections. Amongst the 98 candidates, only two of them are women. Most of the candidates registered in the west, with 73 of them registered at HNEC’s Tripoli office, while 12 of them registered in Benghazi and 13 candidates registered in Sabha.
The pool of candidates generated controversy and criticisms at the national and international levels as some of the candidates, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and Khalifa Haftar are currently under national and/or international investigation for human rights violations and war crimes. Khalifa Haftar who is still a US citizen, is currently being prosecuted in Virginia for allegedly committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Tripoli, Benghazi, Derna, and elsewhere in Libya. In light of these events, the Libyan Military Prosecutor called on HNEC to stop Haftar and Saif Al-Gaddafi's electoral registration until they undergo interrogation for accusations of crimes filed against them. The following day, on 26 November, the chief of the Libyan Criminal Investigation Agency (LCIA), Mahmoud Al-Ajili, confirmed to HNEC that there are existing criminal records and security restrictions regarding Khalifa Haftar.
On 21 November, Libya’s interim Prime Minister Dbeibah announced his candidacy to the Libyan presidential elections although he had previously committed not to run. This also goes against the election law which bars the interim Prime Minister from running for presidency. According to the election law (Article 12), in order to be eligible, Dbeibah should have resigned from governmental duties at least three months before the polling date.
On 24 November, HNEC disqualified 25 applicants from participating in the country’s presidential elections – including Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi. Gaddafi was disqualified pursuant to Article 10 of the presidential election law, for having a previous final conviction of a crime, and Article 17(5) for failing to obtain a certificate demonstrating that he was not the object of previous judgements. Most of the disqualified candidates failed to comply with the rule of non-conviction. Other prominent names that were disqualified include former head of the General National Congress (GNC) Nuri Abusahmain, and Gaddafi’ chief of staff Bashir Saleh. On 28 November, the Tripoli Court of Appeal also accepted two appeals against Dbeibah’s presidential candidacy. However, the court rejected the three of them on 1 December, allowing Dbeibah to run. Likewise, the Sabha Court of Appeals also reinstated Saif al-Islam Gaddafi as presidential candidate on 2 December.
HNEC’s initial decision to disqualify individuals suspected of being responsible for gross human rights violations or failing to comply with the election legal framework from running for the elections was a positive development demonstrating a willingness to uphold the rule of law and to fight against impunity. HNEC’s decision should have been upheld by the courts in line with the rule of law and reinstatement of these candidates is likely to erode the population’s trust in the electoral process. Those responsible for or suspected of such gross violations must be held accountable and should not be allowed to hold high level positions or to run for elections.
Promptly provide financial support to the High National Elections Commission (HNEC) and state institutions concerned with electoral process, to enable them to carry out their duties, as per the Roadmap (article 4.4) including awareness-raising and education campaigns on the importance of the inclusion of the vulnerable groups in the political process;
Prepare polling stations to allow people with disabilities to participate in the electoral process.
Civil society organisations have raised concerns about the lack of preparation of the polling stations to facilitate access to persons with disabilities. An evaluation study conducted by the National Democratic Institute has found that despite some efforts to prepare polling stations, access remains limited for persons with disabilities. The assessment showed that significant difficulties and obstacles in reaching the electoral centres remain, as a result of poor centre selection and a lack of sufficient measures to adapt the facilities to persons with disabilities. This is so while some facilities which are adequately equipped have not been selected or approved as polling stations by HNEC. The study also highlighted the lack of interest in the participation of people with disabilities in the electoral process, resulting in their exclusion from the process.
What is the problem?
Most previous electoral processes in Libya were flawed and elections perceived as lacking legitimacy due to the lack of representation of certain groups of the population. Since 2011, demands from minority groups in Libya have focused on securing greater political representation at both the local and national levels as well as guarantees that their cultural and linguistic rights will be respected. In the 2014 elections (parliamentary), minority groups such as the Amazigh, Tebu and Tuareg were underrepresented and boycotted the electoral process. To this day, Tebu and Tuareg continue to experience discrimination and to face difficulties in obtaining official documentation and Libyan citizenship and in accessing employment and public services, including civil and electoral registries. “Displaced persons, inside and outside the country”, face similar issues, as many of them had to leave their documents behind when they were forcibly displaced and had to flee their homes. Consequently, they have been unable to access documentation and to register for public services. As a result, these groups have been excluded from the political process. If nothing is done to address these issues, they are at risk of being disenfranchised in the upcoming elections once again.
The needs of persons with disabilities have also been regularly overlooked, curtailing their capacity to participate in political life. For example, in the previous elections, only a limited number of polling stations were equipped to receive persons with disabilities and address their needs. In fact, no accommodation at all was made for visually impaired voters. Persons with disabilities were not supported to engage in media coverage or awareness campaigns organised to encourage participation in the electoral process. Despite the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the GNA in 2018, the legal framework has yet to be amended to address the needs of persons with disabilities.
These limitations impede the right of these vulnerable groups to participate in the elections as voters but also as candidates. Any legal or effective restrictions on the right to stand for election must be justifiable on objective and reasonable criteria. Persons who are otherwise eligible to stand for election should not be excluded by unreasonable or discriminatory requirements such as education, residence or descent, or by reason of political affiliation.
What you must do about it
In order to be free and fair, elections must be truly inclusive. This is key to ensure that the results of the elections are respected and regarded as legitimate by the Libyan people, which will in turn guarantee a peaceful transition to the newly elected government and legislature. To facilitate equal access to all the Libyan people, you must:
- Guarantee the participation of minority groups by making information available in all indigenous languages, including Tamazight, Tuareg and Tebu, in order to reach all communities;
- Ensure that information, for example on how to vote, is available in formats that are accessible to all, including persons with disabilities such as those with visual impairments and people with learning difficulties;
- Ensure that voter registration is inclusive, accessible, and that the largest number of eligible Libyans inside and outside the country can register. Special adjustments should be made for displaced persons who are not in their usual place of residence and may not have access to the civil registry;
- Facilitate the return of displaced persons in a secure, safe and dignified manner, allowing them to register and vote in their hometown;
- Ensure that election rules do not discriminate or arbitrarily exclude potential voters or candidates;
- Promptly provide financial support to the High National Elections Commission (HNEC) and state institutions concerned with electoral process, to enable them to carry out their duties, as per the Roadmap (article 4.4) including awareness-raising and education campaigns on the importance of the inclusion of the vulnerable groups in the political process;
- Prepare polling stations to allow people with disabilities to participate in the electoral process.