By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 13 May 2015:
A counterterrorism law adopted by the House of Representatives (HoR) on 14 September 2014 “runs . . .[restrict]afoul of Libya’s obligations under international law and human rights treaties is has ratified” says Human Rights Watch (HRW), expressing concern that the law could be used to restrict free speech.
The Law on Combatting Terrorism was put in place to provide a legal mechanism for the Libyan government to address legitimate terrorism concerns, but holds certain provisions that could be used to suppress basic human rights of assembly and free speech.
HRW said that it sent a letter to Libya’s Minister of Justice on 23 March detailing particular concerns about the law and recommending specific changes. According the HRW, it has been informed that the justice minister has sent the letter to the HoR for review.
One concern that HRW has about the law in that it includes punishments of acts that harm national unity. The vague wording and the provision for punishment for an act that does not involve violence leaves room for the law to be used to prosecute free speech.
Additionally, HRW expressed concern that the definition of “terrorist acts” is too broad. An individual can be prosecuted for terrorism for something as minor as a misdemeanor.
Life in prison, said the group, is too long and too broad a sentence for leading a terrorist organisation without requiring any evidence of violence. Furthermore, too much power is given to the courts to limit freedom of movement of individuals who are prosecuted who may simply have been exercising their right to free speech.
“Under international law, restrictions on human rights must be ruled by legality, necessity, and proportionality,” asserted HRW. “Any limitations on rights must be only to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, and any derogation of rights can only take place when there is a declared state of emergency threatening the life of the nation and should be of an exceptional and temporary nature.” [/restrict]