Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) would like to congratulate all Libyans on the third anniversary of the 17 February Revolution. LFJL is proud of the accomplishments of the Libyan people in achieving freedom and ending a reign of oppression. LFJL wishes to reflect during the occasion on Libya’s current struggles and the country’s progress towards democracy and respect for human rights.
The previous year saw Libya struggle once again with the protection and promotion of human rights. LFJL is concerned by the instability brought on by unlawful armed groups who have regularly carried out violent attacks, including extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and attacks on state and media institutions, with total impunity. The direct consequences of the conflict are still felt by many Libyans. Large populations remain internally displaced. Notably, the people of Tawergha have been prevented from returning to their homes and have been targeted by indiscriminate reprisal attacks, arbitrary detention and torture by unlawfully armed groups. According to the United Nations established International Commission of Inquiry on Libya, this ongoing vicious treatment of the Tawerghans by such groups amounts to crimes against humanity.
There are also up to 8,000 conflict-related detainees currently being held in substandard conditions in detention facilities without legal recourse. Signs of widespread torture of detainees, particularly towards migrants, have been documented. The lack of legal counsel and other fundamental rights means that many prisoners are trapped in inadequate conditions with little hope of a fair trial.
LFJL is further concerned by the growing trend of using state structures to undermine the fundamental freedoms of citizens. In June, the Political Isolation Law came into force. Its wide scope, excluding individuals who are deemed to have been associated with the Gaddafi regime or “who took a position against the 17 February Revolution”, and its vague wording, make it ripe for use as a punitive tool. This law not only infringes individuals’ rights to political participation but also severely undermines the right to legal due process.
We saw this trend of using state structures for the purposes of quelling political dissent again earlier this month when the General National Council (GNC) adopted a law amending the Penal Code to create new criminal offences for actions which may harm or prejudice the February 17 Revolution and for insulting remarks directed at the executive, judiciary and legislature or any of their members. This law demonstrates a serious attack on the fundamental right of freedom of expression.
On the anniversary of the February 17 Revolution, LFJL wishes to remind the GNC of its democratic mandate to protect and promote human rights and to call on it to halt the adoption of legislation which not only contradicts the spirit of the Revolution but human rights law as enshrined in Libya’s Interim Constitutional Declaration and in Libya’s international obligations.
“This anniversary provides a genuine opportunity to move forward,” said LFJL Director Elham Saudi. “On the 20th, we will go to the polls to elect the body that will be responsible for Libya’s permanent constitution. The security situation, the political instability and the lack of accountability for human rights violations are all factors that could impede this process. However, they can also be the catalysts for our participation in the constitutional process, which will only be successful if it is truly inclusive and representative of all Libyans.”
In order for the constitution to be successful and powerful it must not be divisive. It needs to reflect all of Libya’s interests so that all individuals can find protection and representation within its text. The most feasible way to achieve this is if the Constitutional Drafting Assembly is a body that is as diverse and representative as Libya itself, and not one made up of political blocs and factions. “LFJL urges those voting in the elections not to do so on political grounds, but by selecting those who they believe best represents their communities’ values and who can best draft a constitution which genuinely protects the human rights of every Libyan,” added Saudi.
You can view LFJL’s views on participation in the elections here:
Further information on the upcoming elections and candidates for the Constitutional Drafting Agency can be found here:
Listen to Director Elham Saudi discuss “Revolutionary Freedom” on the BBC World Service as part of the BBC’s Freedom Season here.