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The Libyan League For Human Rights
Sunday, 10 July, 2005

6 July 2005

Dear Mr.Arbour

Subject: Libya: Gross Violations Of The Right To
Freedom Of Expression And Freedom Of Association And Assembly

In November 1998, the Human Rights Committee (HRC), following its consideration of the third periodic report submitted by the Government of Libya under article 40 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, expressed its "deep concern about the numerous restrictions, in law and practice, on the right to freedom of expression and in particular on the right to express opposition [emphasis added] to or criticism of the Government, of the established political, social and economic system and of cultural values prevailing in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" (para.16). The same Committee expressed deep concern regarding "restrictions imposed in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya on the right of assembly and the right to freedom of association, which are not in conformity with articles 19, 21 and 22 of the Covenant. These restrictions also unduly limit the right to participate in the conduct of public affairs, including the opportunity to criticize and oppose the Government". These are the HRC recommendations. Let us now see how these recommendations are perceived and implemented by the Government of Libya.

On 25 and 26 June 2005 a group of Libyans met to discuss Libyan public affairs in London, away from Libya where such discussions are forbidden in law and in practice. It was an attempt to exercise, in line with the HRC recommendations, their right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of association by expressing collectively their peaceful opposition to the Libyan Government and its leader, President Qaddhafi. It was also a test of the willingness of the Libyan Government to implement the HRC recommendations and to respect the letter and spirit of the Covenant that it ratified in May 1976. The Libyan League for Human Rights deeply regrets to report that the Government totally failed the test as it attempted, by all and any means, to disrupt the London gathering and, when thwarted in this attempt, resorted to its customary practice of open threats and blatant intimidation of its rivals, namely the participants in the said meeting. The following is a sample of the threats and menaces as reported, on 2 July 2005, by the official Libyan News Agency, a government "information" arm:

"The Basic People’s Congresses {local chapters of the ruling revolutionary committees party} which concluded their meetings Saturday evening {2July} devoted their final session to exposing the mercenaries, hired agents and beggars {the participants in the London meeting} who sold themselves and who were driven by their selfish interests as agents in their desperate attempts to trespass on the options of the Libyan people. Consequently, they resolved as follows:

* Eternal adherence to the Al-Fatih Revolution and its leader {President Qaddhafi}, the symbol, liberator of Africa and founder of its great Union.

* To hold the thieves and traitors {the participants}, who sold themselves and stole the wealth of the Libyan people then fled abroad, accountable for their acts.

* To pursue those traitors through legal actions on the charge of high treason and distortion of facts.

* To review relations with all nations that support and harbour those gangs, traitors and mercenaries.

*The members of the Basic People's Congress declare their commitment to the Revolutionary Movement and military training and are ready for confrontation to protect the honour and freedom of the Libyan masses".

This is the manner in which the HRC recommendations are being implemented and the basic principles of the Covenant are being respected by the Libyan Government!

Such interference with the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly reflects the fact that Libya remains not only a single-party State where no opposition parties, associations or groups are permitted but a Party-State in which the State and the party are one and the same. It is the "Jamahiriya" system that has been imposed for the last 30 years without ever having been submitted to a popular referendum as it is customarily done on the occasion of major and important changes in the political or economic orientation of any country. The system is structured in such a way as to ensure that all political, economic and judicial powers are fully controlled by President Qaddhafi (non-elected), who is accountable neither to the public nor to any other institution.

The “Jamahiriya” system rejects the very principle of elections and parliamentary representation and condemns pluralism. It does not accept dissenting views or thoughts and allows no scope, however marginal it may be, for the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association. There are obviously no independent media in Libya as the Government controls all channels of expression, including radio, television and the press, and imposes strict censorship on all newspapers, magazines and books imported into Libya. Independent (non-governmental) public gatherings such as the London meeting, cultural seminars and lectures are totally banned. The Protection of the Revolution laws of 1971 and 1972 impose stringent restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association and other basic human rights. These laws define a number of crimes against the "revolution" which, in practice, prohibit any expression of diverging opinion. In Libya the judicial system is totally subjected to the Ruler. It strictly prohibits, de facto and de jure, the establishment and activities of independent associations, whether they are political parties, NGOs or trade unions.

This is the system that prevented the London meeting from convening at its natural venue; Tripoli, Libya. It still prevents any peaceful attempt to secure the enjoyment in Libya of basic human rights as enshrined in the international instruments ratified by the Government of Libya. The very fact that the meeting took place outside Libya is unquestionably an indictment of a regime that has ruled the country, in a totalitarian way, for more than 35 years and yet still fears any discussion of public affairs by a small gathering of no more than 150 dissenters. In fact, the London meeting has confirmed once more that the Libyan regime, despite its claim to be "the most democratic in the world", is nothing but a totalitarian regime that fears more than anything else democracy and alternative opinions. The fear is so real that the Government, through the national media that it fully controls, resorted to a campaign of incitement to violence, which is in itself a crime under Libyan laws, through open threats against the life and well being of participants in the London meeting. The Government, using a sophisticated system of terror, forced thousands of Libyans in several Libyan cities to take to the street to actively endorse the smear campaign by issuing statements of support, in line with the one reproduced above, for the regime and by denigrating the London meeting and its participants, who were portrayed by the demonstrators as "stray dogs", "mercenaries", "beggars" and other defamatory designations.

The Libyan League for Human Rights strongly believes that it is the duty and responsibility of the Commission on Human Rights, the HRC and the office of the high Commissioner for Human Rights Human, to assist Libyans in their endeavour to enjoy fully their civil and political rights, including the right to freedom of expression and the freedom of association and assembly. It is their responsibility to call upon the Government of Libya to strictly fulfil its obligations under the Covenant, it freely ratified, though its firm adherence to its letter and spirit. More specifically, we believe that they have a responsibility to stress to the Government that threatening its political opponents with death squads and physical liquidation is not only illegal but will not, in any way, resolve the problems faced by Libya. What Libya really needs is democratic governance based on regular, general and free elections by secret ballot between political parties with differing policies as stipulated in article 25 of the Covenant. The HRC has consistently requested the Government to comply with that article as well as articles 18, 19, 21, and 22, but to no avail. Is it not time for the HRC, the Commission and the High Commissariat to take further action to guarantee to all Libyans the full enjoyment of their human rights, in particular their right to freedom of expression and freedom of association?

The Libyan League for Human Rights would like to stress, in the meanwhile, that the participants to the London Meeting are facing immediate dfficult time as a result of the Government threats of revenge not only against the participants but also against their relatives in Libya. It is feared that the Government may carry out those threats by first retaliating against relatives, especially those who may refuse to condemn, as requested by the Government, the action (participation in the London meeting) of their relative(s), to repudiate or to disavow their person. The League remains at your disposal for any further information or detail you may deem necessary for eventual follow up actions on this serious situation with the Government of Libya and with the internal Human Rights community.

Sincerely,

Soliman Bouchuiguir, (Ph-D)

Secretary General

Ms. Louise Arbour
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des Nations,
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland


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