Last week, Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) concluded a roundtable meeting following the launch of its Human Rights Archive in December 2016. The meeting brought together representatives of Libyan civil society and international organisations to develop a shared understanding of archiving and its importance for preserving the truth, accountability and transitional justice in Libya.
In December 2016, LFJL launched the Human Rights Archive project to create a secure online platform where lawyers, activists and civil society can safely store documentary evidence of human rights violations. The project aims to protect evidence that is at risk of being lost, stolen or damaged so that it can be used in future transitional justice processes, preserving the right to truth and ensuring that perpetrators are held to account.
On 20 November 2017, LFJL, with support from swisspeace, hosted the first official meeting of ‘The Network for Monitoring and Archiving for Justice’ (SHIRA), a group of Libyan organisations, including LFJL. The organisations in SHIRA have been working together to build a digital archive of human rights violations. In the meeting, organisations addressed challenges faced by civil society working on human rights documentation in Libya and identified key areas where support is needed. The organisations also put together an action plan on how to grow and develop the archive over the next two years.
The representative from the Dutch Embassy in Libya who attended the meeting stated, “Strengthening of the international legal order and respect for human rights is one of the priorities for the Netherlands. We support human rights defenders in their efforts to secure documentation on human rights violations. The Libyan lawyers we have met during the workshop are the change agents that will lay the groundwork for transitional justice in Libya. This is a premise in Libya’s process towards a stable and democratic society.”
On the second day of the meeting, LFJL, swisspeace and SHIRA were joined by representatives from international organisations to discuss opportunities for collaboration and cooperation on human rights archiving in Libya. Many international organisations have collected human rights documentation and evidence in Libya over the years, including at times when Libyan civil society was unable to do so. In order to preserve the truth and support transitional justice and accountability, organisations must ensure this information is made available to national stakeholders. The international organisations participating in the meeting engaged in a frank and constructive discussion, with all parties identifying potential areas of collaboration with LFJL and SHIRA.
LFJL Director, Elham Saudi, stated “Working towards a national human rights archive now is important because it lays the groundwork and will enable a transitional justice body to get to work quickly, avoiding further delays to justice.” Saudi added, “As the body of evidence in human rights violations grows, it will put additional pressure on the Libyan state to make a concerted effort to address the accountability deficit.” LFJL will continue strengthening its partnership with Libyan and international organisations to ensure the development of an inclusive and comprehensive archive that promotes transitional justice in Libya.