Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) condemns the excessive use of force applied by the Libyan authorities as part of the ongoing law enforcement operation in Bani Walid, in particular, the shelling on 8 October 2012 that resulted in the deaths of several civilians, including children.
On 25 September, the General National Congress (GNC), Libya’s legislative authority, authorised the ministries of the interior and defence to use force to arrest certain suspects including those responsible for the alleged torture and killing of Omran Shaaban, the man believed to have captured Colonel Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi on 20 October 2011. The GNC also demanded the release of other detainees held in Bani Walid and set a deadline of 10 days for the implementation of these demands.
The actions taken by the Libyan authorities, which apply collective punishment, mark a clear violation of fundamental human rights, including the right to life. LFJL Director Elham Saudi stated that “what we see here is yet another example of the Libyan authorities relying on revolutionary legitimacy and resorting to military measures to address a matter of law enforcement. The GNC must ensure that the actions of its authorities are proportional, fair and enshrined in the rule of law and not simply violent manifestations of victor’s justice.”
LFJL calls on the Libyan authorities to initiate immediately an independent public investigation to ensure that those responsible are held accountable. The authorities must investigate the alleged crimes upon which the authorities justified their actions in Bani Walid, as well as the legality of the law enforcement activities carried out on behalf of the state. LFJL strongly urges all parties to cease immediately the use of disproportionate force and to pursue peaceful means of resolution. LFJL urges the government to prioritise the development of transitional justice mechanisms, so that reconciliation may be provided in a fashion that takes into account root causes of conflict and remedies injustices through the recognition of inalienable human rights. “It is vital for the Libyan government to assert its authority not by perpetuating the culture of violence and human rights violations of the past but by applying the rule of law and due process. If the Libyan authorities fail to do this, Libya will find itself once again in a state of revolutionary legitimacy where crimes are defined by the perpetrators and not the actions and where impunity flourishes,” added Saudi.