Press release: Libya has failed to comply with its CEDAW obligations in a case of severe online violence against Noura Eljerbi

July 2, 2024

Today, Libyan journalist and human rights activists Noura Eljerbi, with the support of Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL), has filed a case against Libya to the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) as a victim of severe online violence, including that enacted by accounts affiliated with the Libyan state.  

Since 2015, Noura has been an acclaimed public figure in Libya, working on human rights, with a focus on women’s rights, as a TV journalist and on social media. Her posts and public commentary have triggered an onslaught of abuse, sexual harassment, stalking, and threats of a violent nature, even leading to offline intimidating behaviour.

The coordinated nature of the abusive content shared on several social media platforms at the same time demonstrated that the online attacks against Noura were pre-arranged, specifically designed to harass and intimidate Noura to stop her human rights work. As a result of this sustained violence and calls for her arrest, Noura was forced to flee Libya and resettle abroad where the online abuse continues to this day.

This experience over the last decade has had a severe impact on Noura, her family, and her professional life. As well as impacting her journalistic career where Noura is denied collaborative efforts with Libyan media and civil society organisations due to fears of being associated with her, the online abuse has been detrimental to her mental health, triggering feelings of isolation, paranoia and depression.

Due to the lack of laws protecting women in Libya from violence, both online and offline, there are no effective remedies available for Noura to take this case forward domestically. This is furthered by the overall collapse of Libya’s judicial system which offers no effective remedies to victims of human rights violations generally. For women, they face a particularly unsafe environment to lodge criminal complaints.

Under these circumstances, CEDAW may offer Noura a path to justice. As the authoritative mechanism monitoring state compliance with the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women of 1981, CEDAW will examine whether Libya is in breach of its obligations under the Convention. This includes its obligation to prevent and protect women in Libya from violence. CEDAW made clear that online violence constitutes a form of violence against women and must therefore it be examined within this framework.

This case presents the argument that Libya is responsible for failing to protect Noura against repeated acts of online violence and for enabling impunity for such acts. More speficially, it also enabled targeting both by private persons and through accounts affiliated with the Ministry of the Interior and authorities in eastern Libya. This discriminatory treatment has limited Noura’s ability to participate in Libya’s political and public life.  

Noura’s case fits into a broader pervasive pattern of online violence against women (OVAW), a type of gender-based violence (GBV) that deeply affects the Middle East and North Africa region. A 2020 study conducted by UN Women found that online harassment was the highest reported type of violence against women in the nine countries it surveyed in the Arab region. A subsequent study conducted by UN Women in 2021 found that 49% of women internet users in the Arab region reported feeling unsafe from online harassment. In this regional context, online violence, as are other forms of violence against women, is heavily stigmatised and can have profound impacts on women’s public life and reputation, as well as their private and family life.

The problem of online violence is particularly pertinent to human rights defenders and women activists in its use as a tool to silence and supress women, often leading to self-censorship that reinforces the absence of women’s voices in the public space.

“Despite the difficulties I’ve faced, I remain committed to using my voice to challenge and change the harmful dynamics that spur online violence and injustice. I hope this will help others to know that if domestic laws fail, we can go further seeking accountability”, Noura commented.

For more information, please contact Juergen Schurr – Head of Law at LFJL at  

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