The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum must prioritise human rights as the way forward

June 28, 2021

Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL) calls on the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) reconvening today 28 June 2021 to prioritise the voice of the Libyan people, and ensure that human rights, justice and accountability guide its deliberations.  

In this round of talks in Geneva the LPDF is due to agree on the constitutional basis for the elections due to take place on 24 December this year, in line with the Roadmap "For the Preparatory Phase of a Comprehensive Solution" adopted in November 2020 (the LPDF Roadmap).  The LPDF must ensure that the interim executive authority, embodied in the Government of National Unity and the Presidency Council, meets the needs of victims, ensures accountability for perpetrators and facilitates the broadest possible participation by the Libyan people in Libya’s political and transitional justice process.  

According to a survey carried out by LFJL with more than 350 participants across Libya, the majority of respondents viewed the fulfilment of victims' rights and accountability for serious crimes as a key pre-condition for a transition to sustainable peace.  

“Libyan people want peace, but they also want justice,” said Marwa Mohamed, Head of Advocacy and Outreach at LFJL.  “If this is truly meant to be a Libyan owned process then the voice of the Libyan people must be factored in and prioritised. Political expediency frankly is no excuse to ignore human rights, justice and accountability. The only path to sustainable peace is through justice.”

In turn, the interim executive authority must tackle seven key priorities in the next six months. Among other things, these include ensuring that marginalised groups such as ethnic minorities, women, displaced persons and people with disabilities can participate, and that voter registration is inclusive and accessible. The High National Elections Commission (HNEC) and state institutions concerned with the electoral process must not be impeded in their work and must be provided with financial and technical support to enable them to carry out their duties, including awareness-raising and education campaigns.

The interim executive authority must guarantee freedom of expression by creating an environment in which candidates, journalists, writers and activists can speak freely, without discrimination, fear of retribution, or arbitrary punishment.  This will be key to fostering political debate in the lead up to elections. To ensure this, all regulations and decrees that provide disproportionate and illegitimate restrictions on freedom of expression and the press must be repealed, and attacks and threats against those who speak out publicly must be investigated and those responsible held accountable. The media must have access to politicians, including through briefings to the media on the progress made, and be able to comment on public issues without censorship or restraint to inform public opinion.

The interim executive authority must also demonstrate its commitment to upholding the values and democratic gains of the 2011 uprising by repealing repressive measures imposed on civil society. Civil society actors and organisations must be empowered to speak out and defend the rights of everyone in the country, which in the run up to elections is more important than ever. This must include the repeal of repressive regulations intended to impede civil society organisations and their activities, including Decree 286 of 2019. All forms of abuse including threats and reprisals against civil society organisations and human rights defenders must be investigated and those responsible must be held accountable. The Libyan Civil Society Commission must be made a separate body operating independently with its own budget. Its work must not be subject to interference from political authorities, central intelligence forces or the security sector, including armed groups and militias.

Candidates for public office must be thoroughly vetted, and where there exists a reasonable basis to believe that they have been implicated in the commission of serious international crimes, or violations of international human rights or humanitarian law, they should be barred from running. In assessing whether a “reasonable basis to believe” exists, HNEC should consider any pending investigation into such allegations by the International Criminal Court or other accountability mechanisms, including authorities in third countries. Allegations highlighted in United Nations (UN) reports and other reputable sources should also lead to the exclusion from running for public office, including reports from the Panel of Experts on Libya, the UN Support Mission in Libya or the Independent Fact-Finding Mission, as well as historic commissions of inquiry, on Libya.

“The LPDF must not lose sight of the fact that it has a duty to protect human rights in preparing for the elections,” said Mohamed. “The next six months will be absolutely critical. The LPDF must seize the moment to unite behind accountability and the rule of law. This is the only way that the country as a whole can move forward.”

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