The Coalition of Libyan Human Rights Organisations is concerned by recent attempts to restrict unlawfully freedom of expression, assembly and association.
The Coalition of Libyan Human Rights Organisations (the Coalition) is concerned by recent attempts to restrict unlawfully freedom of expression, assembly and association. The Coalition calls for the retraction of statements and the reconsideration of legislative efforts that undermine fundamental human rights.
Over the past week, Libyan representatives have issued statements with the intent to control and limit the activities of Libyan civil society. On 21 November 2015, the Head of the General Authority of Information and Culture, Omar El-Gawairi, issued a statement urging security agencies to “capture the spies and traitors and thus ban any media or civil society organisations funded by foreign sponsors or linked to foreign departments. In addition, Libyan citizens should take the initiative to close shops of agents and hideouts of spies, and then expel them outside of Libya.” The Culture and Civil Society Ministry also issued a notification on 25 November 2015 requiring all individuals working for civil society organisations to provide notice and seek approval from the ministry prior to attending meetings, workshops and conferences outside of Libya.
In addition, the consolidated constitutional draft, which was leaked in October 2015, allows the activities of civil society to be stopped by legal order and for organisations to be dissolved by judicial ruling. The draft’s wording does not provide specific conditions as to when such restrictions should be applied, aside from noting that there is a need to “maintain balance between requirements of their independence and transparency”. This is a much lower standard of protection for these fundamental freedoms than what Libya is committed to provide under international human rights law.
The Coalition underlines that such efforts, if enacted, would allow the state to have greater control over the activities of civil society and limit its independence. Through intimidation and the restriction of funding to state sources, civil society groups are being pressured to act in compliance with the will of those in power or otherwise face closure, prosecution or violence. This limits the ability of civil society to hold state actors accountable or to ensure they are carrying out their responsibilities with integrity and respect for the rule of law.
Aml El-Houderi, International Advocacy Programme Coordinator for Lawyers for Justice in Libya, noted “The presence of free and independent civil society is vital for social, economic and political progress in Libya. Efforts to restrict civil society undermine such progress and protect those who do not wish to be scrutinised. These measures if enacted will once again isolate Libyan civil society from the region and the rest of the world."
The Coalition urges those responsible for the recent statements to withdraw their comments and acknowledge that they do not create legal obligations on behalf of civil society. Further, the Coalition recommends that the state reviews all existing and proposed legislation to ensure its compatibility with Libya’s international human rights obligations. The Coalition urges the Libyan state to consult and work with Libyan civil society in the future prior to implementing regulations that restrict their activities.
Lawyers for Justice in Libya
Al Nissa Qadimat Movement (the Women are Coming Movement)
Mercy Association for Charitable and Humanitarian Aid (Alrahma)
National Libyan Organisation for the Development of People with Disabilities
Libyan Association for Tebu Culture
Libyan Center for Freedom of Press