Silencing speech: the abduction of lawmaker Seham Sergewa is the latest attack on free speech in Libya

July 19, 2019

An armed group abducted Libyan lawmaker Seham Sergewa on Wednesday in the eastern city of Benghazi in a clear attack on the legislative authority in the country. The lawmaker had been expressing views critical to the offensive on Tripoli by the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (commonly known as the Libyan National Army or LNA) and called for a ceasefire. Sergewa also urged for the formation of a civilian state. Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) reminds all parties to the conflict that this attack is a clear breach of Libyan laws including the 1953 Penal code and Law no 10 of 2013 related to the Prohibition of Torture and Enforced Disappearances. It is also a clear breach of Libya’s obligations under international laws. All parties to the conflict must respect their legal obligations under both national and international laws and hold those responsible to account. 

According to local media, an armed group calling itself “Awleyaa al-Dam” stormed Sergewa’s house in Benghazi, shot her husband twice in his leg, before taking the lawmaker to an undisclosed location where her fate remains unknown. Photos circulated on social media show Sergewa’s house after the attack with “the army is a red line” scrawled  on it.

Consecutive Libyan governments and armed groups affiliated with them are responsible for thousands of kidnappings and disappearances in Libya since 2011. People have been targeted mainly because of their political views or tribal links or for financial gains. The dominance of armed groups across the country and the eruption of armed conflicts since 2011 have led to the undermining of the rule of law, which has paved the way for the prevalence of a culture of impunity.

“The abduction of Sergewa is a blatant attack on free speech, no one should be abducted or deprived of their liberty for expressing their views. The relevant authorities must ensure that the law maker is immediately and unconditionally released and those responsible are brought to justice," said Mohamed Elmessiry, Senior Legal Advisor at LFJL and working on LFJL’s project on enforced disappearances. 

For more information on LFJL enforced disappearances project contact

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