Stop Libyan anti-free speech law

This video is called Tortured Freedom: Libya’s new rulers resort to old tactics.

From the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information:

Libya: Revoke Draconian New Law

5 May 2012

press release

Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) should immediately revoke a new law that bans insults against the people of Libya or its institutions, Human Rights Watch said today. The law also prohibits criticism of the country’s 2011 revolution and glorification of the deposed former leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The law violates Libya’s provisional constitutional covenant and international human rights law, both of which guarantee free speech, Human Rights Watch said.

“This legislation punishes Libyans for what they say, reminiscent of the dictatorship that was just overthrown,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “It will restrict free speech, stifle dissent, and undermine the principles on which the Libyan revolution was based.”

Under Law 37, passed on May 2, 2012, spreading “false or vicious news” or “propaganda” that harms “military efforts to defend the country, terrorizes people, or weakens the morale of citizens” is a criminal offense, punishable with imprisonment for an unspecified amount of time. Included in “propaganda” is glorification of Gaddafi, his regime, and his sons. If the offensive statements damage the country, the law says, the offender can be sentenced to life in prison.

Anyone who does anything to “damage the February 17 Revolution” can be charged with a crime under the law and sent to prison. February 17 refers to the start of the popular uprising that overthrew Gaddafi in 2011.

Charges can also be brought against anyone who “insults Islam, or the prestige of the state or its institutions or judiciary, and every person who publicly insults the Libyan people, slogan or flag.”

The ban on damaging the February 17 Revolution is apparently based on article 195 of Libya’s current penal code, drafted and implemented under Gaddafi’s rule, which bans any “damage to the great al-Fateh Revolution or its leader.” The al-Fateh Revolution brought Gaddafi to power in 1969.

Under the previous government, criticizing Gaddafi or the al-Fateh Revolution was punishable by death. Individuals were regularly imprisoned for criticizing the government, some of them under article 195 of the Libyan penal code.

“It seems the NTC has done a ‘cut and paste’ job with the Gaddafi-era laws,” Whitson said.

A group of Libyan human rights lawyers told Human Rights Watch that they will challenge Law 37 before the country’s supreme court.

Libya’s constitutional covenant, passed on August 3, 2011, includes a chapter on human rights and freedoms. Article 14 ensures freedom of opinion and speech, as well as assembly.

Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), governments may only restrict the right to freedom of expression to protect public morals if the restriction conforms to strict tests of necessity and proportionality and is non-discriminatory, including on the grounds of religion or belief. The newly enacted law fails to meet that test, Human Rights Watch said. Libya is a party to both the ICCPR and the African Charter.

The United Nations Human Rights Committee, in its 2011 General Comment on the ICCPR’s article 19, held that the right to freedom of expression protects speech that might be deemed offensive or hurtful to followers of a particular religion, unless the speech in question amounts to “advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.” It also said that “States Parties [to the ICCPR] should not prohibit criticism of institutions.” The Human Rights Committee is considered the authoritative interpreter of the ICCPR.

Human Rights Watch called on governments supporting Libya’s transition, as well as the UN mission in Libya, to condemn the newest law strongly, and other unlawful attempts to restrict free speech, expression, and assembly.

“This law is a slap in the face for all those who were imprisoned under Gaddafi’s laws criminalizing political speech, and who fought for a new Libya where human rights are respected,” Whitson said. “Libya’s new leaders should know that laws restricting what people can say can lead to a new tyranny.”

Libya: Detained Migrants Face Harsh Conditions, Legal Limbo: here.

Somali asylum-seekers who landed their boat on one of Malta’s most popular beaches at the weekend have told UNHCR that seven fellow passengers died during their week-long voyage from Libya: here.

Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) should immediately amend a new law that protects from prosecution people who committed crimes if their actions were aimed at “promoting or protecting the revolution” against Muammar Gaddafi, Human Rights Watch said today; here.

The most recent political developments in Libya strongly support the sense that the country is quickly moving from one autocracy to another one. The only question is whether it will be theocratic, regional-ethnic or some combination of the two: here.

Nato bombers killed at least 72 civilians in last year’s regime change operation in Libya, a human rights group said today: here.

Libya: Deserting Refugees in the Sahara: here.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) expresses worry for kidnapping 13 Egyptian fishermen in Libya. The detained people disappeared in April 2012: here.

Members of the United Nations Security Council should condemn attempts by the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) to prevent accountability for serious and ongoing crimes committed in Libya: here.

Cash-grabbing companies are queuing to squabble over rich pickings in Libya as the country tries to get back on its feet: here.

The Arab Spring sent scores of sick and injured Libyans, fleeing their war- torn country, straight to Jordan, where the influx of patients is putting a lot of pressure on Jordanian hospitals and disrupting the lives of Libyan and Jordanian patients alike: here.

North Africa: UNHCR Strives to Find Solutions for Refugees At Egypt-Libya Border: here.

Egypt: Tunisia Blogger Interrogated By Security: here.

5 thoughts on “Stop Libyan anti-free speech law

  1. Militias fire on PM’s offices

    LIBYA: Militiamen with anti-aircraft guns attacked the office of interim prime minister Abdurrahim al-Keib in Tripoli this afternoon.

    The attackers are believed to be former rebels demanding payment for their part in the Nato-backed regime change operation in the oil-rich country last year.

    It was unclear at the time the Star went to press whether Mr Keib was in the offices.


  2. U.N. says three Libya prisoners likely tortured to death

    Michelle Nichols Reuters

    5:42 p.m. CDT, May 10, 2012

    UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Several prisoners likely were tortured to death at a detention center in Libya under government control, the United Nations said on Thursday as it urged the country to make stamping out such practices a top priority.

    Libya’s Justice Ministry has control of 31 detention centers with some 3,000 detainees, but about 4,000 prisoners are still in the custody of Libyan revolutionary brigades, U.N. special envoy for Libya Ian Martin told the U.N. Security Council.

    Of the detention centers under government authority, Martin said “control over these facilities is often shared with other parties, including the brigades that had been running them.”

    The U.N. human rights agency and aid groups have accused the brigades of torturing detainees, many of whom are sub-Saharan Africans suspected of fighting for the toppled government of Muammar Gaddafi during Libya’s nine-month civil war.

    “Mistreatment and torture of detainees continue,” Martin said. “UNSMIL (the U.N. Mission in Libya) expressed deep concern regarding the deaths of three individuals at a detention center in Misrata … under the authority of the Ministry of Interior.”

    “The deaths all occurred on April 13 and we have credible information that they were a direct result of torture, as well as information that at least seven other persons were tortured at the same facility,” he said.

    Accusations of the mistreatment and disappearances of suspected Gaddafi loyalists are embarrassing for Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council, which has vowed to make a break with practices under Gaddafi and respect human rights.

    It is also awkward for the Western powers that backed the anti-Gaddafi rebellion and helped install Libya’s new leaders.

    The interim government was appointed in November to lead Libya to elections in June but is struggling to impose order on a country awash with weapons left over from the fighting.

    Martin said allegations of torture had also been made at detention facilities elsewhere in Libya, including Tripoli, Zawiya and Zintan.

    “Addressing these practices should be a top government priority in pursuit of a new culture of human rights and the rule of law in post-revolution Libya,” he said.

    Gaddafi’s 42-year rule collapsed when his forces fled Tripoli in August, and the last of the fighting in Libya ended in October when he was captured and killed by rebels.

    With Libya due to hold its first free election next month to choose an assembly to draft a constitution, Martin said between May 1-9 more than a million people had registered to vote, but that only 36 percent of them were women.

    He said more than 1,100 individual candidates had registered along with 47 political entities. “Among individual candidates, however, the number of women coming forward has been extremely low – only 29 so far,” Martin said.

    “This is disappointing but unsurprising, as most women who want to run prefer to be included in the lists of political entities, which by law must include alternating male and female candidate,” he said.

    (Editing by Eric Walsh)


  3. Libya: UNESCO Calls for Protection of Country’s Old City of Ghadamès

    23 May 2012

    The head of the United Nations agency tasked with safeguarding the world’s cultural heritage today called for the protection of Libya’s Old City of Ghadamès, voicing concern over reports that the town has been the target of rocket attacks.

    “I call upon all those involved to refrain from hostile acts that could cause additional damage to this outstanding city, inscribed on the World Heritage List,” said the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova.

    The Old City of Ghadamès is situated in north-western Libya and was inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1986. Often referred to as ‘the pearl of the desert,’ Ghadamès features a style of domestic architecture which makes it a unique site among a series of pre-Saharan cities and settlements along the northern edge of the desert from Libya to Mauritania.

    Clashes between rival groups have been among the challenges facing Libya since the toppling of the regime of Muammar Al-Qadhafi last year and the establishment of the interim authorities.

    “During the past year, Libyans have shown their unfailing commitment to the protection of their cultural heritage, demonstrating that such heritage cannot be held hostage to local or international dissent and conflict,” Ms. Bokova said.

    “Heritage is a foundation of social cohesion and as such should remain a vector for dialogue and mutual understanding,” she added.

    During last year’s conflict in Libya, UNESCO repeatedly informed all parties of their responsibility to protect the country’s cultural heritage. The agency has resumed its cooperation with the Libyan authorities and has indicated it remains ready to assist them to effectively protect and conserve the country’s heritage as it recovers from conflict.

    UNESCO’s World Heritage List includes 936 properties forming part of the cultural and natural heritage considered to have outstanding universal value.


  4. Pingback: Violence, not democracy in Libya | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Elections, but no democracy, in Libya | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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