Paris Summit on Libya: Risking Libya’s constitution for political expediency

The Paris Summit on Libya resulted in a political agreement on the electoral process in Libya that risks compromising the integrity of the new Libyan constitution.

May 31, 2018

On 29 May 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron held a summit on Libya with four of Libya’s main political actors. The meeting hosted Fayez Al-Sarraj, chairman of the Presidential Council of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), Aguila Saleh, speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR), Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army (LNA), and Khaled Meshri, head of the High State Council (HSC). The meeting initiated by France brought together the four rival Libyan actors in order to agree a roadmap to new elections in 2018. It aimed to build on a previous French initiative hosting Sarraj and Haftar on 25 July 2017, which had led to few discernible results.

The Paris Summit concluded with the adoption of a joint declaration including commitments to organise “credible and peaceful” parliamentary and presidential elections on 10 December 2018 and to respect the results of these elections. The declaration also called for finalising a constitutional and legal framework for the elections by 16 September 2018. However, the joint declaration does not clarify what such a framework would comprise and which concrete steps will be taken in order to put it in place within the limited timeframe, including in relation to the suggestion that a constitution be adopted by 16 September 2018. LFJL is deeply concerned that expediting the necessary legal reforms and constitutional process for the sole objective of facilitating these elections will further destabilise the rule of law in Libya and result in increased instability. LFJL Director Elham Saudi, stated “We are at a real risk here of compromising the future cornerstone of the Libyan legal system, a permanent constitution, for a politically expedient process. A ‘quick fix’ approach to the constitutional process will result in a document lacking legitimacy or adequate protections for all those in Libya and will be a very high price to pay for the sake of elections”. Any constitutional process must include public consultation and be an opportunity for an awareness campaign on the content of the constitutional draft and its potential impact on human rights and fundamental freedoms to ensure that every Libyan can make an informed decision when voting to accept or reject the constitutional draft.

Of further concern is the lack of any vetting process for those taking part in the elections and for the security forces that will safeguard the electoral process to ensure that they are not implicated in  human rights violations. The joint declaration equally fails to specify that these security forces must be independent. This is particularly concerning as security in Libya is currently provided, for the most part, by armed groups exercising quasi-police powers and having political affiliations, including with the parties to the joint declaration. LFJL therefore calls on all Libyan actors, and the international community, to pledge their commitment to ensuring that human rights, the rule of law, and accountability remain at the core of any constitutional or electoral process.

Saudi further commented: “We welcome initiatives to bring Libyan actors to the table in order to move the process forward. However, such initiatives must be fully inclusive and must not be to the detriment of Libya’s constitution, human rights and the rule of law. Whilst President Macron declared that ‘the Libyan people aspire to stability and security,’ it is regrettable that the action plan does not recognise that a key route to stability and security is one founded on the respect of human rights and the pursuit of accountability. We need to stop being led by expediency at the price of genuine change; we must ensure instead that a rights-based approach addressing root causes is implemented in Libya.”

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