30 march 2008
The seventh session of the United Nations Human Rights Council has just been concluded. The Special Rapporteur on Promotion and Protection of the Rights to Freedom of Opinion and Expression informed the Council, during the session, of the urgent appeal he sent, on 17 August 2007, jointly with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, to the Government of Libya on behalf of a group of Libyans who have been in jail for the last fifteen months for attempting to peacefully express an opinion on public affairs different from the views of the Government. The appeal reads as follows:
1. The special Procedures mandate holders brought to the attention of the Government the situation of
Al-Sadiq Salih Humaid,
Ahmad Yusif al-`Ubaidi,
who were on trial for planning to hold a political demonstration in Tripoli, as well as `Abd al-Rahman al-Qotaiwi and Jum`a Boufayed, who had disappeared since their arrest in connection with the same demonstration. According to the information received, the fourteen men listed above were arrested on 15 and 16 February 2007 for organizing a demonstration in Tripoli, aiming at marking the first anniversary of the death of eleven people in a clash with the police on 17 February 2006 during a protest against the publication of the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. Twelve of the fourteen men detained were on trial for planning to overthrow the government, possession of arms, and meeting with an official from a foreign government. According to Articles 166, 167 and 206 of the Libyan Constitution, these men could be sentenced to death. `Abd al-Rahman al-Qotaiwi and Jum`a Boufayed, who were arrested as organizers of the demonstration, had disappeared since their arrest and not been brought to court. The Rapporteurs expressed concerns that the arrest and disappearance of the above mentioned persons might be linked to their activities in defense of human rights.
Response from the Government sent on 5 November 2007
1. In its response, the Government informs that the persons mentioned in the communication were accused of committing acts that are punishable under Libyan law. They were charged and brought before the competent court of appeal to be tried pursuant to article 2, paragraphs (a), (b) and (c), of Revolution Command Council Decree No. 71 of 1972, concerning unlawful political activities; articles 178, 196, 206 (32), 207, 211 (1), (2) and (3), and 345 (1), of the Libyan Criminal Code; article 195, as amended, of Act No. 80 of the year 1327 MWR (from the death of the Prophet); articles 1, 2, and 3 (1), of Act No. 7 of 1981, concerning possession of weapons, ammunition and explosives; articles 59 (1), 60, 76 (2), 100 (2) and (3), and 101, of the Criminal Code; and articles 1, 2, 4 and 8 (1), of Act No. 4 of 1423 MWR, concerning the prohibition of alcohol, as amended in 1425 MWR. The case was heard by the court during four sessions, the last of which was held on 4 August 2007. No criminal verdict was handed down in the case. The court applies the Code of Criminal Procedures and the Libyan Criminal Code to the defendants". End quote.
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Text of law NO. 71 of 1972 referred to by the Government
This law violates the letter and spirit of the CCPR, specifically articles 19, 21 and 22, ratified by Libya which should recognize the precedence of its obligations under international law over its domestic laws which should be all conform to Libya's international commitments. Any law that is not in conformity with those commitments becomes legally CADUC .
Full text of Law No 71 of 1972
(Translated from Arabic by the LLHR)
Article 1: The "Arab Socialist Union" shall be the sole basic people's organization in the Libyan Arab Republic through which citizens shall exercise freedom of opinion and expression, within the limits of the interests of the people and the principles of the Revolution, in accordance with the provisions of the Statutes of the "Arab Socialist Union".
Article 2: Party politics shall constitute betrayal of citizens and of the alliance of the people's forces, represented by the "Arab Socialist Union". A political party means any grouping, organization or faction, regardless of its form or the number of its members, which is based on a political ideology the aims or means of which are contrary to the principles of the 1 September Revolution or which seeks to harm the constitutional institutions of the Revolution overtly or covertly, irrespective of whether the ideology on which it is based is written or unwritten or whether its advocates and supporters use material or other means.
Article 3: Anyone who advocates the establishment of, or who founds, organizes, manages, funds or provides premises for the meetings of, any grouping, organization or faction prohibited under the terms of this Act shall be liable to the death penalty. The same penalty shall also apply to anyone who becomes a member thereof or in any way incites others to do so or who provides it with any assistance or in any way receives or obtains, directly or indirectly, money or benefits of any type from any person or body with a view to establishing or making preparations for the establishment of the prohibited grouping or organization. No distinction shall be made in regard to the severity of the penalty between a superior and an inferior, regardless of their rank in the party, grouping, organization, faction, section, cell or the like.
Article 4: Special courts may be established, by decision of the Revolution Command Council, to try persons accused of the offences specified in this Act. The judgements of these courts shall be subject to ratification by the said Council, which shall also be empowered to quash or commute such judgements.