Repealing repressive regulations, intended to impede civil society organisations and their activities in Libya, including Decree 286 of 2019;
Following the announcement of his resignation, Jan Kubis, the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Libya presented his final remarks to the UN Security Council on 24 November. Among other things, Kubis addressed the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. Supporting the call from civil society, he expressed concerns about the requirements imposed on civil organisations by the national authorities to report any interaction with UN officials. Kubis also highlighted how civil society can be denied registration, or be dissolved by the Executive authority, on overly broad grounds. These regulations are inconsistent with Libya’s international legal obligations and restrict the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association and risk impeding the free and fair electoral process.
In a recent development, on 24 November the Libyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs also sent a letter to Libyan delegations in The Hague preventing anyone from engaging with the International Criminal Court without informing the Ministry first. This measure, which aims to prevent victims and civil society from coming forward, constitutes a serious impediment to the work of the Court and to accountability for international crimes.
The GNU must lift these restrictions and ensure respect for the freedom of association and peaceful assembly.
Ensuring all forms of abuse including threats and reprisals against CSOs and human rights defenders are investigated and that those responsible for such abuses are held accountable;
Ensuring that the CSC is a separate body operating independently with its own budget and guaranteeing that its work will not be subject to interference from political authorities, central intelligence forces or the security sector, including armed groups and militias.
What is the problem?
Civil society and human rights activists in Libya are regularly targeted for their work and face threats, abductions and enforced disappearances in addition to seeing their rights to freedom of association and assembly regularly violated. Since 2016, the Libyan authorities in the west and the east have issued a number of decrees and executive orders which impede the ability of local and international civil society to work in Libya, including by granting the Libyan Civil Society Commission (CSC) discretionary and overly intrusive powers. In particular, Decree 286 of 2019 strictly regulates the work of local and foreign civil society organisations (CSOs) regarding their establishment, registration and structure and provides the CSC powers to control, restrict and suspend CSO activities and also to dissolve the CSOs. In the context of prospective elections, it is particularly concerning that Decree 286 also imposes a blanket prohibition on CSOs engaging in “political activity” without providing a concrete definition of this term. This could potentially impede the crucial work of civil society in raising awareness and monitoring electoral processes.
What you must do about it
To fulfil your mandate of moving the country towards peace and reconciliation, you must demonstrate your commitment to upholding the values and democratic gains of the 2011 uprising by repealing the repressive measures imposed on civil society. Civil society actors and organisations must be empowered to speak out and defend the rights of everyone in the country to pave the way for free, fair, and peaceful elections.
Under the Roadmap, you are required to “support the Civil Society Commission to perform its functions and remove the obstacles and restrictions on the work of civil society institutions without prejudice to public order” (article 6.8). As such, you must ensure that civil society in Libya is able to carry out its work freely without hindrance from the Libyan authorities, by:
- Repealing repressive regulations, intended to impede civil society organisations and their activities inLibya, including Decree 286 of 2019;
- Ensuring all forms of abuse including threats and reprisals against CSOs and human rights defenders are investigated and that those responsible for such abuses are held accountable;
- Ensuring that the CSC is a separate body operating independently with its own budget and guaranteeing that its work will not be subject to interference from political authorities, central intelligence forces or the security sector, including armed groups and militias.