Tripoli, 8 May:
An influential group of Libyan lawyers has condemned two new laws, criminalising glorification of Qaddafi’s regime and pardoning crimes committed during the revolution, as a backward step on the country’s path to establish a society based on human rights, the rule of law and democracy.
The condemnation comes hard on the heels of similar vigorous protests by both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
The ire of the Lawyers for Justice in Libya has been roused by Law 37 which makes it an offence punishable by up to life imprisonment where praising the old regime “harms the state”. This legislation also asserts that Libya is still at war. LFJL is equally despairing of Law 38 which has granted a complete amnesty for crimes committed during the revolution.
The lawyers maintain that both pieces of legislation not only breach Libya’s international commitments, which include the International Convention of Civic and Political Rights, but also the Constitutional Declaration of 3 August 2011, through which the NTC derives its legitimacy.
They also argues that the laws were framed without consultation with civil society organisations representing the various interests of the public. In acting this way, warns the LFJL, the NTC is “seriously undermining its own legitimacy.”
“These laws are, unfortunately, ones which are familiar to all Libyans after living under Gaddafi’s rule for 42 years” said Elham Saudi, LFJL director, “In Libya, we paid a heavy price over the last year, and the 42 preceding years, to ensure an end to prisoners of conscience, only for the NTC to ensure a continuation of a system for repressing voices that dissent.
“It is particularly worrying that the NTC has chosen to codify into law that Libya is in ‘a state of war’. We call on the NTC to explain the reasons for this, given that its most apparent effect is to spread fear and anxiety amongst Libyans and to afford justification for those who wish to wield power with an iron fist and who wish to undermine human rights,” she added.
LFJL further asserts that amnesty legislation represents a serious impediment to the establishment of the rule of law here. It has ‘terrifying’ echoes of the Qaddafi era and its vague terms leave it open to abuses, including arbitrary detention.
“The NTC is enshrining the culture of impunity.” said the LFJL in a statement today, “Impunity for violations of human rights and war crimes resulting from a sense of revolutionary legitimacy is dangerous and perpetuates the culture that existed under the Gaddaﬁ regime, where all was justified in the name of the 1969 Revolution.”
Elham Saudi added: “Libya is at a crucial turning point. For Libya to move forward, and for us Libyans to be able to transition to a state that truly promotes responsible citizenship and protects our rights and freedoms, accountability must be enshrined over impunity. All responsible for abuses must be held accountable for their actions – we must break away from the Gaddafi inheritance of impunity and from viewing all actions through the prism of the 17 February Revolution. Our interim government, and the one which is due to be elected in June, must fulfil their duty to protect and promote all Libyans’ rights and not contextualise such protections based on political affiliations or any other discriminatory bases.”