On 16 February 2017, Decision 6 of 2017 relating to banning travel (the Decision) was issued by the Libyan National Army’s chief of staff and Military Governor for Ben Jawad to Derna, Abdel Razik Al-Nadori, allegedly for reasons of national security. The Decision bans Libyan women under 60 years of age from travelling abroad without a male chaperone. It also requires relevant authorities to implement the Decision immediately and repeals any laws inconsistent with the Decision. The Decision does not state what sanctions apply if the Decision is breached. The Coalition of Libyan Human Rights Organisations (the Coalition) strongly condemns the Decision as unconstitutional and a violation of human rights and calls for its repeal.
The Decision violates Libya’s current constitution. The 2011 Constitutional Declaration protects equality between all Libyans without distinction including on the grounds of gender. It also requires that the state must protect the freedom of movement of all Libyans.
In addition, the Coalition underlines that such a Decision is in violation of Libya’s obligations under international law. Libya is obliged, as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to protect the right to non-discrimination by ensuring the equal right of women and men to the enjoyment of civil and political rights. Libya is also obliged to protect the right to freedom of movement including by allowing individuals to have the right to leave the country and the right to return.
The Coalition has previously warned of ongoing discrimination against women in Libya and called for the protection of the right to equality and freedom of movement. Notably, the Coalition specifically warned against the non-binding but influential calls by Dar Al Iftaa to ban women from travelling without a male chaperone. Although these calls were not formally enforced, they were arbitrarily applied.
The Coalition reminds Libya of its public commitments expressed during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) including the undertaking to adopt policies and legislation aimed at promoting the rights of women. The Decision contradicts Libya’s undertakings at the UPR to secure the equal treatment of women.
Further, the Coalition is concerned that the Decision follows a pattern of past restrictions to certain individuals and groups using the rhetoric of national security as a justification for such restrictions. Notably, the Culture and Civil Society Ministry 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. The Coalition underlined at the time that such efforts, if enacted, would allow the state greater control over the activities of civil society and limit its independence.
“Women continue to fight societal stereotypes reinforced through such ill conceived decisions. Libyan authorities have a special duty to adopt a gender perspective in this post-conflict era,” commented LFJL Director Elham Saudi. “The travel ban is a dangerous setback to the protection of human rights. In particular, Libya has once again failed its female citizens by using security concerns as a way to curtail the human rights of women instead of an impetus to secure them. This is not where we imagined we would be as we mark the sixth anniversary of the 17 February uprising,” added Saudi.
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